So far, two first-term GOP senators have declared their presidential candidacy (Cruz and Paul), with Rubio set to do so Monday.

On both sides of the aisle, there are a lot of questions and concern as people wonder what these first-termers have accomplished.  This is, of course, a fair question to ask, but to be equally fair, we should take note of Harry Reid’s lockdown of the Senate for the past six years.

Not only were Republican senators unable to accomplish much in Reid’s Senate, but neither were Democrat senators (some of whom lost their seats as a result, at least in part).  The National Review reported in January of last year:

The New York Times reported last week on Reid’s “brutish style” and “uncompromising control” over the amendments process in the Senate. Why are more people finally catching on to Reid’s flagrant disregard for Senate customs? In part because conservatives aren’t the only ones complaining.

Democrats such as Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota — who wants to repeal Obamacare’s medical-device tax — and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York — who has waged a highly publicized campaign to reform the way the military handles sexual-assault cases — have been denied votes on their proposed amendments to various bills. Gillibrand had hoped to attach her sexual-assault amendment to the defense-appropriations bill that passed in December, but no amendments were allowed. Klobuchar has called for “a more open amendment process” because she’d like a vote on repealing the medical-device tax.

We all watched as frustrated politicians on both sides of the aisle complained that there were more than 300 bills “sitting on Harry Reid’s desk,” so it seems less than reasonable to focus on legislative accomplishments by first-term GOP senators who were apparently very busily working on legislation that then ended up mired down by Reid.  Even House Dems were urging Reid to pass their bills in the Senate.  To no avail.

At the time, we all thought it was unreasonable of Reid to refuse to pass even those bills that would surely pass with bipartisan support:

Reid has refused to bring up measures that would almost certainly pass with bipartisan support, such as legislation approving construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, or the aforementioned medical-device-tax repeal. He has also refused to consider legislation to impose new sanctions on Iran: A majority of Senate Democrats support the idea, but it’s strongly opposed by the White House. On the Iranian issue, Republicans have accused Reid of “playing defense for the president” against the wishes of his own conference.

Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell, still reeling from Reid’s unprecedented use of the “nuclear option” to eliminate filibusters on executive-branch appointees, has gone on the offensive, taking to the Senate floor last week to urge members to “restore the Senate to its purpose,” which he says will produce better legislation for all.

With such illogical refusal to bring even popular, bipartisan bills to the Senate floor, can we really blame first-term senators for not having a long list of legislative accomplishments to bring to the table?

Let’s look at their records in the Senate, yes, but let’s do so in light of the constraints placed on them by then majority leader Reid.

Watch and listen to Cruz, Paul, and Rubio at the Freedom Partners forum as they address questions of accomplishment and experience: