January 12th, 2010
12:05 PM ET
12 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. JA/TN

    Reid simply said what many are afraid to say, the tea partiers have a worse opinion, or mentality, the gun toting ralliers, i can't recall any outrage, or Wilson calling the president a liar in the halls of congress, so shut up

    January 12, 2010 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  2. Jeff Brown in Jersey

    Nice picture of Good Ole Mitch there! From what I hear, that looks like a natural pose for him!

    January 12, 2010 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  3. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    This is a good stance for you to take sir. Your whacko cohorts on your side of the aisle have lost any semblance of political integrity by drawing totally off-bse comparisons between this incident and that racist idiot Lott's comments.

    I just wish that the news creating, err, I mean reporting, media would let this crap die already.

    January 12, 2010 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  4. anthony caudill

    What more can I say? I'm not a fan of ebonics myself. If a person doesn't have enough distance than to distance themselves from "GANSTA RAPPAZ", then they definitely would not make a good president. If you want to be elected in America, at least TRY to sound like an American.

    January 12, 2010 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  5. Isaac

    What I dont understand the republicans, where were thier tea party racist white people came out with racist remarks about presidente Obama.

    January 12, 2010 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  6. Monster Zero

    Wait a minute, Obama described himself as a Mutt, short for mulatto? I think he should step down for racially discriminatory remarks about himself! When is DC going to figure out there are some things you just can't regulate, racism being one of them! Just watch an episode of COPS or Maury Povich and some of you may understand....you just can't fix stupid.

    January 12, 2010 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  7. Censoring again? Callahan

    i just read John Feeheny's CNN article but totally disagree....it's not justice when one person is scored for an action and the other is ignored.....politics should not differentiate when it comes to
    'poor choice of words' ...that 's just not right. In principal, he should step down.

    January 12, 2010 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  8. dale

    Of course he would. Just like all the other liberals. Glad that was'nt a rep, the libs would have settled for nonething less than resignation.
    Just like they only allow the constitution to be quoted if it fits their agenda and then totally denies it's existence when it don't. A double standard is under statment when libs are involved.
    Oh,,, where's that transparency??? We won't need to worry after 2010 elections but til then they have outcast the people that elected them. How sad

    January 12, 2010 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  9. Steve in Denver

    What's up with this? McConnell doesn't think it is his place to run the Democratic party? This the same party that actually tried to force the Democratic party to change it's name?

    Eh, Rush will correct you and you'll be appoligizing.

    January 12, 2010 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  10. Joe

    I'm not a Republican, but seems like there is a double standard. Reid gets a free pass while Lott got the boot. Fair is fair, so everyone should be held up to the same standard.

    January 12, 2010 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  11. John in Tampa

    I am independent but lean to the left. I am tired of hearing people in Washington, from either side, jumping all over people from the other side over every silly or just incomplete comment. Sen. Reid said a thing that was analysis about race in politics rather than a personally held racial attitude. Did Trent Lott say something similar or something nostalgic for segregationist views? I don't know. And I don't have time now to revisit it. I will go with my memory from the time, it was plain wrong to ever even seem to be in agreement with Strom Thurmond on this.

    January 12, 2010 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  12. Stevo

    Thank you! Someone has to stopped the bitter name calling and partisan bickering. Someone has to step above the fray and stop playing the same old political game.

    Stop trying to put each other down and start working together. It is a small step but at least it's one in the right direction.

    January 12, 2010 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  13. Angie

    I'm sorry, I guess that I'm just not getting what the big deal is. It seems to me, from ALL the coverage that we have had on this, and maybe I just need to take the book out at the library, but it seems to me is that all that Harry Reid was saying was what EVERYONE ELSE WAS THINKING – that Barack Obama just might get elected because he's not the caricature of a black man seen on TV sitcoms or (pardon any offense) because he's not a Jesse Jackson/Al Sharpton-type, thumping his fist about Civil Rights and whatnot.

    I am a Democrat who is proud to say that she has voted for the first black president and is not ashamed to admit that she had the same thoughts as Harry Reid.

    January 12, 2010 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  14. Stevo

    Much of the partisan divide we experience in the US is driven by the media (and not just FOX news). If you watch this news conference, McConnell mostly talks about the Afgahnistan war and only briefly talks about Reid. Yet the CNN headline is seems to pit these two men against each other.

    News thrives on contraversy. And for some reason, we read the stories, watch the news and click on the videos that report on controversy.

    I guess news is as capitalistic as everything else in America. If Brittney Spears gets arrested for drunk driving on the same day a cure for diabetes is discovered, I can put money on which story gets the headline.

    January 12, 2010 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
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