Despite Re-Election Race, Reid Won’t Change Leadership Style

Posted March 27, 2009 at 9:52am

A defiant Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) said Friday morning that he will not dial back his high-profile work as the Democratic leader, even though his involvement in controversial issues like the economic stimulus bill have made him a bigger target in 2010.

Speaking at a breakfast meeting sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor, Reid, up for fifth term next year, said he sees no need to make changes.

“I’m not going to change anything. I’ve always been who I am. People in Nevada know that. Some people like me, some people don’t,— Reid said, adding that while “I’ve watched other people try to change who they are in an election cycle, I’m not going to do that.—

Reid noted that he raised some $2 million in the last fundraising quarter and that he has already put in place an aggressive campaign operation to deal with any challenger that Republicans throw his way. Reid’s poll numbers have slipped decidedly since he became the Majority Leader, and the GOP views him as one their best chances for a pickup in 2010.

“I’ve learned you have to have a good campaign operation,— Reid said. “I’m sure they’re going to find someone to run against me. I know I have a target on my back.—

True to his word, Reid took a number of shots at conservatives and liberals alike. For instance, in discussing the coming Senate judicial confirmation fights, Reid said he expects President Barack Obama will nominate “moderate— judges to fill any Supreme Court vacancies. Reid also accused Chief Justice John Roberts of lying to the Senate during his confirmation hearings.

“Roberts didn’t tell us the truth. At least [Associate Justice Samuel] Alito told us where he was,— Reid charged, lamenting that “we’re stuck with these two young men.—

However, Reid specifically ruled out the possibility of resurrecting the “nuclear— option to push through Obama’s nominees. In 2005, then-Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) threatened to change the rules of the chamber to eliminate filibusters on judicial nominations. Although the proposal ultimately failed, Republicans have worried Reid could try to make those changes now that he has a powerful majority.

But Reid rejected that possibility outright. “The nuclear option, as I said at the time was one of the most important things I’ve ever worked on … there is no way I’d ever be part of moving the nuclear option.—

Additionally, he harshly criticized the decision by outside liberal organizations like MoveOn.org to run ads against Democrats who are participating in a new Senate centrist group. “I think it is very unwise and not helpful … these groups should leave them alone,— Reid said.

“I’m not going to be driven by people on the extremes who say it’s my way or the highway,’— Reid warned.

Reid also confirmed that he, along with Vice President Joseph Biden and other Democrats, have approached Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) about switching parties, but that Specter’s decision to drop his support for a controversial pro-labor “card check— bill likely means he will not be joining the Democratic ranks. “Yes, I’ve talked to him. But I think his coming out against card check hasn’t helped him— in the polls, Reid said.

The chances of wooing Specter aside, Reid said he is hopeful Democrats will be able to pick up seats in next year’s election. “We’re in a position to pick up a number of seats … I think our success is tied to Obama’s success,— he said.

As for the chamber’s agenda, Reid said Friday that following the Easter recess that begins on April 3, he hopes to wrap up the budget debate, continue work on legislation dealing with controversial bonuses paid out to executives from companies that have been bailed out by the federal government, a mortgage fraud bill, antitrust legislation and the appropriations bills. Reid also said he will look to push through housing legislation, although he indicated he may be forced to leave out a “cram down— provision passed by the House if he can’t muster enough Democratic support.