Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is not a likely candidate to write a sequel to the book "How to Win Friends and Influence People," especially when it comes to winning over the opposition to health-care reform. In one broad sweep, the Democratic Leader on Monday tarred all opponents of health-care reform with the same brush as Americans who once opposed ending slavery or extending civil rights to women and Blacks, and he has refused to back down from his analogy.
Instead, the Nevada Democrat on Tuesday castigated Republicans for "distorting" his comments, made Monday on the Senate floor, reported The Hill.
"At pivotal points in American history, the tactics of distortion and delay have certainly been present," Reid said. "They've certainly been used to stop progress. That's what we're talking about here. That's what's happening here. It's very clear. That's the point I made -- no more, no less. Anyone who willingly distorts my comments is only proving my point."
On Monday, Sen. Reid accused the Republican opposition of employing the same delaying tactics used to frustrate anti-slavery efforts, women's emancipation, and civil rights for Blacks, saying they were on the "wrong side of history."
"You think you've heard these same excuses before? You're right," Reid declared. "In this country there were those who dug in their heels and said, 'Slow down, it's too early. Let's wait. Things aren't bad enough' -- about slavery. When women wanted to vote, [they said] 'Slow down, there will be a better day to do that -- the day isn't quite right.'"
Reid also stated, "When this body was on the verge of guaranteeing equal civil rights to everyone regardless of the color of their skin, some senators resorted to the same filibuster threats that we hear today."
Republicans were outraged at the insinuations. GOP Chairman Michael Steele - who is himself Black - blasted Reid for the remarks and demanded an apology, reports Politico.
"The pressure has apparently led Senator Reid not only to make offensive and absurd statements, but also to lose his ability to reason," Steele said.
Steele later appeared on CBS' Tuesday Early Show, calling it an "ignorant moment for Harry Reid" and repeating his call for an apology.
"They [the Left and Democrats in this country] play that race card, that slavery card, that civil rights card," when things do not go their way said Steele.
Resistance to Reid's health-care plan hinges largely on two points: the bill's funding of abortion through health-care subsidies, and the public option, a government-run insurer that would "compete" with private insurance companies.
Reid announced a compromise deal today on the public option, which would involve a plan to allow Americans 55 years old and older to enroll in Medicare. The other provision would provide national health-benefit plans through private insurers, coordinated by the Office for General Management. If that plan failed to give Americans near-universal insurance coverage, then a government-run plan would kick in.
However, a 55-45 vote to table an amendment offered by Sens. Nelson, Hatch, and Casey to forbid the use of federal subsidies to pay for elective abortions, has exacerbated, not solved, Reid's problem about where to get the 60 votes necessary to end debate and pass the bill. Both Nelson (D-Neb.) and Casey (D-Penn.) have indicated that the abortion-debate is not over, and unless their legislation is added to the health-care bill, they will join the GOP in filibustering the bill.