It quickly became clear the ban would face near-insurmountable obstacles in Congress. That led many to question whether the White House proposed the ban to placate those demanding tough action, but was ready to drop it if necessary to strike a deal. A Senate panel plans to vote on the ban Tuesday, though it has virtually no chance of passing the full Senate. While Biden and Obama say the ban deserves a vote, both have avoided describing it as a must-have.
"Nobody needed to tell me. I saw Bruce's fingerprints all over it," said former Clinton adviser William Galston, who met Reed in the late 1980s working on Al Gore's first presidential campaign. "Bruce is not afraid of the politics of aspiration, but he has a healthy awareness of the distinction between the best and the attainable. He will not counsel people to fall on their sword."
So far, there have been few outcries from the left over the prospect that the White House will abandon the assault-weapons ban — perhaps because even many Democrats are on the fence and fear being cast as infringing on lawful gun ownership.
On other issues where Reed has sought consensus with Republicans, the backlash has sometimes been quite public.
Credited with coining the phrase "end welfare as we know it," Reed bore the wrath of liberals when he helped Clinton in 1996 secure a welfare overhaul — negotiated with Republicans — that ended some guarantees for poor Americans. A handful of Clinton officials resigned in protest.
Still, even those on the losing end of policy disagreements say Reed somehow manages to keep it from getting personal. Peter Edelman, one of the officials who resigned, said even when consensus proved elusive, Reed treated his adversaries with respect.