The pressure is heating up on Capitol Hill as the health care debate is in its 8th day. This from my colleague on the hill, Z. Byron Wolf:
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid equated Republican attempts to slow down and scuttle Democrats' health care reform legislation with historic opposition to the end of slavery or the women's suffrage.
The comments are drawing anger from Republicans, who said the comments were inappropriate and unfair.
Here's what Reid said on the Senate floor Monday morning:
"Instead of joining us on the right side of history, all Republicans have come up with is this slow down, stop everything, let's start over," said Reid. "You think you've heard these same excuses before, you're right. 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. When women spoke up for the right to speak up, they wanted to vote, some insisted slow down, there will be a better day to do that. The day isn't quite right. When this body was on the verge of guaranteeing equal civil rights to everyone, regardless of the color of their skin, some senators resorted to the same filibuster threats that we hear today. More recently, when chairman Chris Dodd of Connecticut, one of the people who will go down as a chief champion of the bill before us today, said that Americans should be able to take care of their families without fear of losing their jobs, you heard the same old excuses. seven years of fighting and more than one presidential veto, it was slow down, stop everything, start over. History is repeating itself before our eyes. There are now those who don't think it is the right time to reform health care. If not now, when, madam president? But the reality for many that feel that way, it will never, never be a good time to reform health care."
Democrats have consistently tried to paint their efforts to extend health insurance to all Americans as historic. Senators said that was also the thrust of President Obama's pep talk to Democratic lawmakers on Capitol Hill Sunday. But comparing opposition to health reform with opposition to the end of slavery is a new riff on the argument.
Republicans, when asked about the comments, said Reid was inappropriate today. At a press conference, Republican Sens. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, John Thune of South Dakota and Saxby Chambliss of Georgia said Reid was infusing the issue of race into the health reform debate. Thune called the remarks "inflammatory."
Inflammatory or not, Reid's comments do have the benefit pointing out how both parties have found themselves on the wrong side of history.
It was a Republican President that freed the slaves. And former Republican Theodore Roosevelt's Bull Moose party (not the Democrats or the Republicans) was the first major national party to support women's suffrage.
The fight against the Civil rights movement in the last century had more to do with regionalism than political party. It was Sen. Robert Byrd, D-WV, who is now the longest serving Senator, who filibustered the Civil Rights Act for 14 hours in 1964. 44 Democrats and 27 Republicans voted to end that filibuster. 23 Democrats and 6 Republicans voted to sustain it. The Democrat's Majority Leader, Richard Russell, opposed the bill. The Republican Minority Leader, Everett Dirksen, was one of the Republicans who joined with Democrats to end the filibuster after the Civil Rights Act had been on the Senate floor for 57 days. Both men now have Senate office buildings names after them.
Democrats' health reform bill has got a ways to go before it can come close to competing with that long a floor debate. Monday marks the eight day it has been on the Senate floor. UPDATE: Reid’s spokesman, Jim Manley, has this to say to Republicans calling for Reid to apologize: It is hard to believe Senate Republicans are making these charges with a
For the past eight days they¹ve done nothing but obstruct health care on the
Senate floor and throughout this year have played politics with this and
virtually every other issue of importance to the American people.
Today¹s feigned outrage is nothing but a ploy to distract from the fact they
have no plan to lower the cost of health care, stop insurance company abuses
or protect Medicare.
And for those who are counting, Republicans have now held one press
conference on manufactured anger and have issued one manual on how to grind
the Senate to a halt but have held zero press conferences and issued zero
plans on how to help Americans afford to live a healthy life.