GOP blasts Harry Reid for slavery remark

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is getting plenty of criticism for comparing Republicans opposed to Obama's health care plan to those who opposed slavery.

Senator John McCain said he was astonished to hear Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid compare those opposed to the Democratic health care plan to opponents of slavery.

As could be expected, Republicans haven't been all that receptive to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's assertion that those who oppose the Democratic health care legislation are like those who supported slavery.

Reid made the controversial comparison on the Senate floor yesterday.

"Instead of joining us on the right side of history, all the Republicans can come up with is, 'slow down, stop everything, let's start over.' If you think you've heard these same excuses before, you're right," Reid said. "When this country belatedly recognized the wrongs of slavery, there were those who dug in their heels and said 'slow down, it's too early, things aren't bad enough.'"

"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," he added.

"Astonished and taken aback"

Senator John McCain said he was "astonished" to hear Reid's comments.

"I was astonished and taken aback to see a article that just crossed my desk," he said referring to a story discussing Reid's charge.

McCain said he has always tried to be respectful of his colleagues' opinions even if they don't align with his viewpoints. "I intend to maintain that respect," he said.

He said Reid's comments were so egregious that he owes an explanation to his Senate colleagues.

"I would very much appreciate it if Senator Reid would come to the floor and, if not apologize, certainly clarify his remarks that he was not referring to those of us who we believe are carrying out our constitutional duties and that is in acting in the best interests of our constituents on an issue that will impact the United States of America for years, and years, and years," McCain added.

"Sick and tired"

McCain's not alone. GOP chair Michael Steele also denounced Reid's comparison saying he was "sick and tired" of Democrats playing the race card when they don't get their way.

"This has nothing to do with health care," Steele said on Reid's comments. "If you have a philosophical or political or business disagreement with this administration or Harry Reid on health care, it has nothing to do with the historic roots of slavery. So it was an ignorant comment. Harry needs to go to the well of the Senate, take it back and apologize for offending the sensibilities of the American people on something so important."

Steele was appearing on CBS News this morning.

Won't back down

Republican media strategist and former Bush Deputy Press Secretary Scott Stanzel said despite the calls from the right, he doubted Reid would pull back from his remarks.

"I don’t expect Harry Reid to apologize for his offensive remark because he clearly lacks the political judgment that would prevent most politicians from uttering it in the first place," Stanzel told The Vote. While Senator Reid is solely responsible for the words that come out of his mouth, his staff should also be embarrassed for putting that piece of paper in front of him to read. It is desperate and unbecoming of a U.S. Senate Majority Leader."

Stickin' to it

Stanzel might be right on his prediction that Reid won't back down. After attending the caucus luncheon this afternoon, Reid signaled he wasn't going into retraction-land.

"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."

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