Washington (CNN) – A day after invoking slavery as he criticized Republican opposition to health care reform legislation, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, explained his controversial comment but didn't acquiesce to Republican requests to apologize.
"When this country belatedly recognized the wrongs of slavery, there were those who dug in their heels and said slow down, it's too early, let's wait, things aren't bad enough," Reid said Monday in a Senate floor speech.
Several GOP senators and Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele have demanded that Reid apologize for the remark. But Reid refused to do so Tuesday when asked about the GOP demands.
"Well, I think the point is quite clear by this point," Reid told reporters on Capitol Hill. "That at pivotal points in American history the tactics of distortion, delay have certainly been present. They've been used to stop progress. That's what we're talking about here. That's what's happening here. That's very clear. That's a point I made - no more, no less. Anyone who willingly distorts my comments is only proving my point."
As majority leader, Reid is charged with getting the 60 votes needed to pass health care in the Senate. Early polling shows that Reid faces a tough re-election battle in 2010.