Fast-forward to this week. The Senate has once again been in pro-forma session in order to keep President Obama from making recess appointments. Reid agreed to the tactic as part of negotiations with Republicans last year.
Arguing that the maneuver is nothing more than a gimmick, Obama ignored the Senate's authority and appointed Richard Cordray to the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which was created by the Dodd-Frank legislation allegedly to prevent the excesses that led to the financial crisis. If it wasn't clear enough that the appointment was nakedly political, Obama made the announcement at a campaign rally in the swing state of Ohio, Cordray's home state.
With the alacrity one normally associates with court jesters and royal spittoon cleaners, Reid immediately endorsed the president's decision, accepting the logic that calls a maneuver he invented a sham.
But the spectacle is so much more sordid than that. The CFPB is a constitutional affront, the crowning achievement of this White House's mantra of never letting a crisis go to waste.
The agency has the power to regulate any practices it deems "unfair" -- primarily the practices of institutions and businesses that had nothing whatsoever to do with the financial crisis.
Indeed, it has blank-check power to write the rules it wants to enforce. Worse, it cannot be reined in by Congress, because Dodd-Frank gave it a self-funding mechanism. It can simply take up to 12 percent of the Federal Reserve's operating expenses to do whatever it wants. The power of Congress is ultimately the power of the purse. But in their finite wisdom, Democratic lawmakers gelded themselves. They also insulated the rogue agency from the courts, requiring that judges defer to the CFPB's legal theories.
So here we have Reid, a man who tried to enter the national stage by promising to be an honorable foe of the imperial presidency and the metastasizing growth of federal bureaucracies, thriving on the national stage by enabling exactly those trends when it suits his party. And it all it cost was his honor.