Washington (CNN) - Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell declined Tuesday to follow some of his GOP colleagues who are calling for Sen. Harry Reid to step aside as Senate Majority Leader.
"I think that is an issue for the Democratic conference," McConnell said at morning press conference at the Capitol.
When pressed by CNN as to whether that means he does not agree with Republicans calling for Reid to be ousted, McConnell simple repeated, "I think that's an issue for the Democratic conference."
On Sunday, Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele said that if McConnell had been the one to utter Reid's racially insensitive quote about President Obama, Democrats would be calling for McConnell's head.
When asked if he agrees, again, McConnell wouldn't respond directly. "Who is going be the Democratic leader of the Senate is up to the Democratic conference," he said.
Reid is quoted in the new book "Game Change" saying he thought early on that Barack Obama had a good chance at becoming president because he was "light-skinned" and doesn't speak with a "Negro dialect."
Why is McConnell giving Reid a pass?
Republican leadership aides, speaking on condition of anonymity in order to speak freely about McConnell's thinking, suggested McConnell knows its very unlikely Reid will step down as leader, and the two have a good working relationship he wants to maintain. The two leading Republicans who have called for Reid to step down as Majority Leader have highly political positions: RNC Chairman Michael Steele and Sen. John Cornyn, who is chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee in charge of electing Republicans to the Senate.
Steele and other Republicans have been comparing Reid's comments to racially insensitive remarks that cost Republican leader Trent Lott his post in 2002, and accusing Democrats of a double standard. During a 100th birthday celebration that year for Sen. Strom Thurmond, Lott said the country would be better off if Thurmond, who had run for president as a segregationist, would have won.
The GOP senator who now holds Lott's Mississippi seat also declined to call for Reid's ouster, saying he believes it's up to the people of Reid's state of Nevada to decide his political fate.
"There is a particular interest in our state because of what Senator Lott went through," said Sen. Roger Wicker. "(But) I think the voters of Nevada will make a judgment about that," referring to Reid's political future.
Reid, who is up for re-election this year, was already down on the polls and in the political fight of his life before news broke of his controversial remarks.