January 12th, 2010
12:05 PM ET
5 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. The Weatherman

    Republican's voting base is the moral right and successful small business people.

    Democrats' voting base is delusional loons looking for handouts.

    Where do you belong?

    The Weatherman

    January 12, 2010 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  2. Russ

    John Feehery, in a related articles says: Reid's comments reflect the views of a man who is stuck in the past. And people like Mitch McConnell, John McCain, Orin Hatch and the other old white Republicant's aren't. My god talk about the pot calling the kettle black. The whole problem in Congress is that we need fresh "young" blood in there instead of the old Washington establishment that only looks out for themselves.

    January 12, 2010 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  3. Bing Hastings

    DOUBLE STANDARD! DOUBLE STANDARD! DOUBLE STANDARD! But then we know only republicans are bad, democrats are good - no matter what!

    January 12, 2010 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  4. ej in Tacoma

    I think Mr. Steele was too young to know who Strom Thurmond was or what he stood for. He was segregationist who ran for President in the mid 40s and opposed civil rights among other things. Trent Lot's comment inferred that we as country would be better off if we followed Thurmond segregationist views and kept our country segregated. Mr. Reid's quote from a book was in no way shape or form similar to the Lott /Thurmond case. Reid is an avid supporter of our President and has spent his political career fighting for civil rights and health care for all. How dare these Republicans try to filibuster this slip of tongue by Harry Reid are they that desperate.
    McConnell is doing the right thing thank you senator.
    E.J. in Tacoma

    January 12, 2010 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  5. rta

    what bothers me is who do these republican leaders think they are to judge anyone.
    michael steele said he would woo african americans to the republican side by feeding them fried chicken and potato salad. he disgusts the native indians by his recent comments.
    mitch mcconnell should review his record on minority issues and the obstructionist tactic he and his friends have employed all year.
    senator lott was ousted mainly from his own party, they did not come to his defense and he was uphold segregationist.

    January 12, 2010 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  6. Bill

    Oh Please people, I think we heard Reid's comments quite some time ago, and they are just now being resurfaced as a tool by political opportunist who want to further disparage Reid in hopes of replacing him with someone more pliable. This is just more of a political game than anything real.

    As for Reid's comments, some may find them offensive, but there is a strong element of truth in them. Predjudice is still alive in our society. Some groups wouldn't vote for Romney because he is a Mormon, others wouldn't vote for Obama because he's black or they thought incorrectly that he was a Muslim. The fact that Obama is highly educated, lighter skinned, and speaks outside the stereotype, allowed some to put their predjudices aside and vote for the man based on his merits, not on their misguided feelings about his heritage. Reid's comment are in essence accurate, and the ability of our nation to elect Obama into the presidency is a long stride in the right direction.

    January 12, 2010 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  7. HypocriCNN/FOX Nuisense Channel Of Fools!

    To Compare What Senator Harry Reid D-Nevada And His Record In Politics Vs. The Deceased (Thank Goodness!) Former Senator Strom Thurman R-South Carolina Or Former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott R-Mississippi Is Eggregiously Ignorant. It Profoundly Saddens Me That This Is Todays Level Of Journalism.

    January 12, 2010 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  8. rta

    what bothers me is who do these republican leaders think they are to judge anyone.
    michael steele said he would woo african americans to the republican side by feeding them fried chicken and potato salad. he disgusts the native indians by his recent comments.
    mitch mcconnell should review his record on minority issues and the obstructionist tactic he and his friends have employed all year.
    senator lott was ousted mainly from his own party, they did not come to his defense and he was upholding segregation views.
    sarah palin encouraged the hate speeches at her rally and not once debounce anything,
    michelle bachman continues to be as polarizing as palin and what is her record regarding minorities?
    rush limbaugh, dick cheney , glenn beck , should I go on? none of these people have room to talk or judge.

    January 12, 2010 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  9. Nea

    Talk about Double Standard i remember several Republicans made racist comments and no one ask them to resign and also if Republicans support the Tea Party movement alot of them are racist but they are not going to say it.

    January 12, 2010 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  10. Hammerer

    It is good to hear the African American leaders have decided to move on and quit using race as an excuse and blame everything said and every action taken as racist.
    It is time to quit living in the past.

    January 12, 2010 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  11. Right Leaning Independent

    Why would he? Any Repub challenger should be able to win a matchup with Reid given his unethical deals and the poor job he has done!

    January 12, 2010 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  12. George Guadiane - Austerlitz, NY

    "I think that is an issue for the Democratic conference," McConnell said at morning press conference at the Capitol.

    Translation:
    This tempest in a teapot has no "dome."
    Republicans TRIED to create a problem where there was none, so now let's just fade back into the woodwork till the next attempt to misdirect Americans about our governing intentions and practices. We are STILL the party of NO, we just didn't win this one.

    January 12, 2010 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  13. Franky, Land of Lincoln

    I agree, let the people of Nevada decide his fate. But am curious what they think of it and about is assertions. But the Dems ain't gonna call for it, they ain't. He is a pretty powerful leader and has influences around the country and most importantly, Dems. So I doubt the Dems will have him step down. Unless he does something crazy and unorthodox and deceits the people then we may have a problem but for this, don't think so.

    You know, in some sense, Reid may be right, maybe. But is complicated stuff to say the least. Is too complex for people's business and political scientists should have a better explanation to what he's saying. They're pretty good, you know.

    January 12, 2010 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  14. The Other Michael in Houston

    Good answer McConnell, although we know why you really are not commenting on this so called story, because your party has spent the past few days being laughed at for your so called "outrage". Like we were actually buying that Republicans were so upset over an insensitive racial remark. We know the real reason why all you Republicans were bent out of shape about Reid's remarks, it's because matched your racism and raised it a buck. I'm just glad to see that the Democrats are exposing themselves, most of the Democrats and Republicans only care about African Americans needs, wants and concerns during election time so that they can get your vote.

    January 12, 2010 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  15. Stop the Nonsense

    Sen McConnell appears to be another smart Republican on this issue. Now if they could only get rid of Mr Steele and his constant badgering and belittling of Democrats, maybe some real work could get done on The Hill.

    January 12, 2010 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  16. gt

    get over it g o p.... your playing by two sets of rules.. you know the media is going to blame you ...

    January 12, 2010 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  17. notfooledbydistractions

    Enough of the games. There are a myriad of really important issues to be dealt with – way too many to be wasting time on semantics.

    January 12, 2010 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  18. Susan

    McConnell wants Reid to resign. Nothing new there. There is a vast difference in what Harry Reid said in comparison to Trent Lott's words re: Strom Thurmond, who was a segregationist.

    The republicans will go to any length to smear democrats in an attempt to divert the citizens attention away from health care, energy, environment and economy news.

    January 12, 2010 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  19. LacrosseMom(stuck in moderation)

    Of course not, McConnell knows that anyone can say something stupid! Perhaps the GOP is beginning to see that their campaign of hate,lies,fear and division is backfiring!

    January 12, 2010 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  20. Nevada dude

    It shows McCONnell has at least some common sense, though it has scarcely been demonstrated this congress.

    Harry Reid, my own esteemed Senator, has got a 50/50 chance of survival. He has not done much to help our state, because our state is beholden to casino and mining interests. we have an Undiversified economy centered around gaming, and when the national economy tanked nevada hit the skids hard. Reid and our current leadership have done NOTHING to help us diversify because they dont want to upset the Wynns and Kerkorians and Adelsons of our state. Only now are they mumbling about solar energy, which we should have had done 25 years ago.

    I like Harry and i would hate to see him go, but if he does he can only blame himself.

    January 12, 2010 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  21. A. Goodwin

    Reid's comments were NOT racist and ARE true. You all know that if Obama WAS darker and if he spoke with a black dialect, Obama would not have become president! Unfortunately, racism is alive in America...which is such a sad truth!

    Reid's comments were an assessment of how America could best achieve the goal of an African-American president. If it were up to the likes Trent Lott, that day would never have come

    January 12, 2010 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  22. terry,va

    The repubs chased Lott out of office for his racism. Obummie and the dumbocraps will not because Reid is their water boy to get the Obummie socialist agenda passed. Who has the higher morals? The end justifies the means for the dumbocraps. Reid will be a used diaper to them after the health care bill.

    January 12, 2010 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  23. Rorschach

    in the photo, looks like McConnell's holding up the wrong finger.

    January 12, 2010 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  24. michael armstrong sr. TX.

    Finally they start to agree on government stupidity .

    January 12, 2010 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  25. Tayo, NY

    Well, its good to play safe you know!

    Why fighting a losing battle?

    January 12, 2010 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
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