Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said today that he expressed his displeasure with Michael Bloomberg in a phone call this week over his plan to target Democratic senators who voted against gun legislation, but Reid conceded he could not control the mayor of New York City.
"He's kind of a free spirit, you know," Reid said. "And a rich one."
With families of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting at his side, Reid pledged to try and revive the failed gun legislation in the Senate. He said "the fight is not over," but acknowledged the discomfort facing some Democrats who are being targeted by millions of dollars in advertising from Bloomberg and his gun control group.
"I spoke to the mayor this week - he and I have been friends for some time - to remind him just as I've reminded everyone here that to have Republicans in control of the Senate is a sure sign we will never ever get anything done," Reid said. "Mayor Bloomberg is a man of passion. He is fixated on this and I admire him for doing that."
The mayor has urged donors who live in New York to stop giving campaign contributions to the four Democrats who opposed legislation seeking to expand background checks for guns purchased at gun shows and on the internet. Democratic leaders are worried about losing control of the Senate and fear the ads from Bloomberg could complicate the re-election of senators like Mark Pryor, D-Ark., who is facing a tough race next year.
Mayors Against Illegal Guns, the group financed by Bloomberg, has been running the ads against Pryor and other senators who opposed the gun legislation. Reid was one of several party leaders who have urged Bloomberg to not target Democrats.
"I gave him my input," Reid said. "I'm confident that he'll listen, but that's where we are with Mayor Bloomberg. "
Several leading Democratic senators have voiced concern this week over Bloomberg's approach.
Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, the Democratic architect of the gun legislation that failed in the Senate, said today that he wishes Bloomberg and other supporters would help educate gun owners and voters about the background check legislation to correct misimpressions that he says were planted by the gun lobby, rather than criticizing Democratic senators for opposing the bill.
"I need help in getting that message out," said Manchin.
"There's going to be an election in 2014. That's the time, when we've exhausted every other avenue, of getting the message out. Then do what you've got to do," Manchin said. "Now, we just need a little bit of help. We need a little bit of help."