Harry Reid is a brilliant person. I have had my disagreements with him in the past. I think he has been, until recently, too tied up in the pre-1995 history of the United States Senate in the way he runs things. He has been all too willing to let the Republicans carry on with their ridiculous obstruction in the name of upholding obsolete Senate traditions. The traditions he was trying to protect are laudable, but they only work when Senators of both parties interact in good faith. Since 1995 (and especially since 2008), Republicans in the Senate (and indeed in Washington) have become so conservative and radicalized that they would rather sabotage good policy than let their political opponents have a "win". In the process, they are harming innocent Americans who need the help of their government. See below the fold for why I think the Majority Leader is brilliant.
Harry Reid has correctly predicted that any attempts at negotiating a paid-for extension with Senate Republicans will meet with failure. Even those Republicans who might want to negotiate in good faith on a paid-for extension of unemployment benefits (Portman, Coats, Ayotte, Collins, and maybe Kirk) are under tremendous pressure from their own caucus to keep moving the goals posts on what they want. I believe that most of the Senators I named above want to pass an extension because they believe it is good policy and profitable politically, but they are hamstrung by their ridiculous party and the moneyed interests that own the Republican brand. Harry Reid basically gave Senate Republicans more than enough time to come up with workable proposals to pay for the extension.
Republican arguments that Reid pulled the rug out from under them by proposing a near year-long extension instead of a 3-month paid for extension are ridiculous. After the successful cloture on Tuesday, Reid said publicly that he was open to a paid-for unemployment extension, but only if that extension is for longer than 3 months. When Reid saw that the Republicans were not heeding his condition on the minimum length of a paid-for extension and that they were offering up politically charged amendments, he did the only thing he could do: He basically gave the Republicans everything they wanted, especially the pay-for and a modification to current law that prevents citizens receiving disability from also collecting federal unemployment benefits, and told them to take it or leave it. He even reduced the number of weeks of federal UI available at the various unemployment rate triggers (I feel this was a policy and political mistake, but whatever). These actions have placed Senate Republicans in the position that if they reject the bill on Monday, they will be portrayed in the media as ideologically opposed to the unemployment extension programs - which they are. If the second cloture vote on the unemployment bill fails on Monday, Reid, Reed, Heller, and Murray will go back to work negotiating with the rest of the Senate Republicans (remember, the Monday vote is to end debate on the unemployment legislation). If those negotiations fail, Reid can attach the extension to an important piece of legislation later in the month. Federal unemployment will eventually be extended, and Republicans will be made to look like the clueless, callous plutocrats that they are.