ABC News’ Matthew Jaffe reports:
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid today told ABC News that he feels “embarrassed” that four years ago he argued against raising the country’s debt limit.
“Why is it right to increase our nation’s dependence on foreign creditors?” Reid said on March 16, 2006. “Democrats won’t be making an argument to support this legalization, which will weaken our country.”
In an interview today on ABC’s “Top Line” with Jonathan Karl and Amy Walter, Reid said those comments were a mistake.
“I shouldn’t have done that. I’m kinda embarrassed I did. It was a political maneuver by we Democrats. The Republicans were in power – there were more of them,” Reid said. “The president voted when he was in the Senate the same way. I heard him apologize for it. We all should take a look at how we handle these issues, but that doesn’t take into consideration the numerous times, the numerous times I voted to raise the debt ceiling. The one time I tried to make a political issue of it, I wish I hadn’t.”
Now, Reid said, Congress has no choice but to raise the $14.3 trillion limit to keep the country from defaulting on its debt in the coming months. Republicans in Congress are currently demanding serious deficit reduction measures in exchange for agreeing to President Obama’s request to raise the country’s $14.3 debt ceiling.
“We have no choice. As people on Wall Street are saying, as academics are saying, the International Monetary Fund, everybody in the world recognizes that this country, the greatest country in the history of the world, cannot default on its debt,” the Nevada senator said.
On Wednesday the president called for Reid, the Senate’s top Republican Mitch McConnell, House Speaker John Boehner, and top House Democrat Nancy Pelosi to nominate four members from each of their caucuses to participate in meetings led by Vice President Biden on reducing the nation’s soaring red ink.
But Reid told ABC’s Jonathan Karl that he will not nominate any members of the Senate’s Gang of Six to represent Senate Democrats. The Gang of Six, a bipartisan group working behind closed doors to come up with a plan to slash the country’s deficit by $4 trillion over the next decade, includes Democrats Dick Durbin of Illinois, Kent Conrad of North Dakota, and Mark Warner of Virginia and Republicans Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, and Mike Crapo of Idaho.
“I’m not going to put anybody who’s on the Gang of Six on that,” Reid said. “I think they’re two separate programs. They both have some merit. I met with Sen. McConnell this morning and we’re making a determination on what we’re going to do.”
Reid said he only found out on Saturday about President Obama’s high-profile debt-reduction speech on Wednesday. But he applauded the president for coming out with a plan.
“I think it’s so important the president took the lead on this,” Reid said.