Washington (CNN) – The Democratic and Republican Party chairmen called on legislators Tuesday to tone down some of the heated rhetoric emerging from the health care debate as legislation moves through the Senate.
Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele said that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, needs to apologize for comparing GOP critics of health care reform to opponents of the Civil Rights Act. Steele called it "an ignorant statement," in an interview on CNN's "The Situation Room."
"The reality of the country right now is, you're seeing played out in large measure the arrogance of power," Steele said, appearing with Democratic National Committee chairman Tim Kaine. "Where Democrats feel that they can come to well of the Senate, say whatever they want to say, do whatever they do, and there's not a daggone thing you can do about it, America. 'You can't stop us.' Well, I'm here today to say you can."
Kaine countered that sharp words are coming from both sides of the aisle, pointing out that Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tennessee, recently described Medicaid as "a medical ghetto."
"That's language that probably isn't appropriate either," the DNC chair said.
Steele took aim at an administration plan, outlined Tuesday by President Obama, to help small businesses. The RNC chairman claimed that any boost the plan would give to small business will be counteracted by a growing tax burden, regulatory burden and new health care laws being enacted by Democrats. "It's not real," Steele said of the jobs plan. "That's the reality of it."
Kaine said Republicans have no plan except "to be against anything the president is for" and boasted that the stimulus package has "saved or created 1.6 million jobs." His Republican counterpart called the 1.6 million figure "imaginary."
Steele also elaborated on his plan to publish a new book in January about the Republican Party. Asked about the upcoming book, Steele said it will focus "the future of this country and our party."