January 12th, 2010
12:05 PM ET
4 years ago

McConnell declines to call for Reid to step aside

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.


Filed under: Harry Reid • Mitch McConnell • Senate
soundoff (89 Responses)
  1. southerncousin

    Proud of the Republicans, not vicious, nasty and working in lockstep like they hypocritical democrats. It would be interesting if CNN were to look up any comments concerning the Trent Lott lynching that Reid made in 2002 to show the differnence in decorum and maturity.

    January 12, 2010 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  2. djak

    Quote: 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.

    And so that makes it okay for you to do the same? I think not.

    January 12, 2010 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  3. RobK

    McConnell and Ensign are right. Let it go. Don't sink to the level of the Democrats. Even though Reid's gaffe is much worse than Lott's innocent remark, the Republicans, as the party of morality and decency, should be quick to forgive.

    January 12, 2010 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  4. michael

    And McConnell is a perfect reason why Conservatives have had it with the Republican Party!

    January 12, 2010 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  5. SocialismBad

    Looks like Democrats have an open ended invitation to use and abuse their black constituency at will. I guess that's the loyalty that only massive government entitlement programs can buy.

    January 12, 2010 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  6. Mike

    Are the half that are calling him a failure the same half that voted in the previous administration that created the mess he is trying to clean up? Do you really in your right mind think anyone could clean up a mess in less than a year that took the previous adminstation 8 years to create????? This is the poll that needs asking!!!!!!!

    January 12, 2010 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  7. Bxgrrl

    "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." Yes, and that's why this is pure political posturing. Don't you people have anything really important to do? Like represent US?

    January 12, 2010 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  8. dittohead using forty names

    At least old turtlehead has one friend left,and doesnt want to turn against him.They may be sitting next to each other at the old folks home soon,swapping stories of the old days and all the great deals they made before the partisanship became so intense and hateful.

    January 12, 2010 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  9. Sniffit

    Hmmm...funny how in his own book, "Herding Cats," Lott pretty much blamed Frist for his need to resign, not the Dem conspiracy machine you paranoid GOPers keep going on about. He also talks abotu Bush, Powell and other GOP leaders helping to force him to resign as majority leader. You might also want to consider the role the Scruggs problem and his ostensible failure to obey the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act. Google and Wikipedia are the GOP's worst enemies.

    January 12, 2010 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  10. Sniffit

    Aaaah, McConnell...there he is again, holding up the finger he picks his nose with while everyone else around him is trying to get something done....

    January 12, 2010 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  11. Paul from Phoenix

    Republicans have no spine.

    January 12, 2010 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  12. Obama 2.0

    Yea right, watch what you wish for! :)

    January 12, 2010 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  13. patriot1028

    McConnell needs to grow a pair. He and a number of Republicans, as well as, a number of senior democratic senators recommended thast Trent Lott step down (which he did). He is however correct that there is obviously a double standard in Washington. Even if Reid had used a different "N" word he would have been sheltered. Get a grip. Good news – 2010 and 2012 are coming

    January 12, 2010 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  14. GI Joe

    I have a very wealthy relative in KY, and she says McConnell has no room to say anything about anybody. At social events he has made statements far worse than Lott or Reid. McConnell has outlived his usefulness and will probably lose that spot next time he is up because the good folks of KY are sick of him doing NOTHING but saying NO and deceiving his constituents with his constant false statements.

    January 12, 2010 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  15. eric in Denver

    The best thing that could happen for republicans is for Reid to stay in the race. He has zero chance of being reelected. His approval rating is embarrassing. I think McConnell sees that and wants to make sure that Reid stays.

    January 12, 2010 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  16. indie voter

    He stated facts- Obama is lighter skinned, and to describe the dialect that blacks use as "negro" dialect is NOT the end of the world.
    Lighten up people (figuratively). What next, whites don't want to be called caucasian?!
    I'm sorry it is the way it is, but do not try to persecute someone because of the choice of wording, when his message is on point.

    January 12, 2010 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  17. Cheneygoaway

    CNN – Please stop making an issue of this silly comment. Enough already. This is so stupid and you are a much better news organization than to spend time drumming up this issue. Move on. Please.

    January 12, 2010 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  18. TomInRochNY

    Was it racially insensitive or just speaking candidly about racism in America? My respect for McConnell has gone up because of this. At least he's more interested in getting things done than playing partisan politics.

    January 12, 2010 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  19. CITIZEN

    Reid would be NO LOSS- There are PLENTY MORE in there that WOULD BE NO LOSS for all the GOOD of the COUNTRY that they are {not} doing.

    January 12, 2010 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  20. Ken in NC

    While I hardly ever find myself in agreement with Senator McConnell, on this issue, he is correct. He is also a smart politician as he is letting the fish that will eventually be thrown into the fish grinder of the election process sling the mud. He may even be one of the smartest Republicans around as he knows that he has to work with the Democratic Leader just as the Democratic Leader would have to do if the roles were reversed.

    January 12, 2010 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  21. Will Westmoreland

    Take the emotion out of the equation and review the two statements. What Reid said is true. Politically incorrect but true. There is a prejudice in our society that Reid is speaking to that makes his statement factual. It is easier for some whites to vote for a light skinned African American who speaks in a Northern dialect. It is a prejudice that still exists and to say otherwise is ignorant. Reid was stating a political fact.

    Trent Lott said that America would have been better off if a segregationist and racist candidate won the Presidency. There is a difference and this is a political dog and pony show. If this is all the Republicans have then the downward spiral continues.

    January 12, 2010 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  22. GOPers = Sheep

    So McConnell doesn't want to join the other sheep, led by Michael-The-Fool-Steele. Good for him. I guess he's thinking about his stupid legacy. Remember Jerry Falwell? He died and no one cared. His wife and son tried to make the talk circuit and re-write history starring Jerry Falwell the champion of civil rights. Uhhh, It didn't work, by the way.

    But I must say, the GOPers have one thing in their corner, hatred for their fellow men and women. Hate can make you do and say anything. They constantly vote against their own interest because someone tells them to. They can't possibly believe that the big oil and insurance companies are looking out for their best interest. Thank goodness most Americans have woke up and smelled the political coffee.

    January 12, 2010 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  23. Tony

    Obama speaking out of both sides of his mouth again. FoxNation has video of him saying that Imus and Trent Lott should go do to recial comments. But Reid gets a pass? Typical lib loser.

    January 12, 2010 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  24. Carole

    Steele needs to take heed along with his other Republican boss, Ensign. Apparently some Republicans get IT!

    January 12, 2010 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  25. Robert J

    Truly a remarkable day when Mitch McConnell displays some independent intellect and doesn't support another absurd Republican position!

    January 12, 2010 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
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