Sen. Harry Reid: Any Budget Deal Must Include Revenue
Asserting that "the American people" are on his side, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., told me during an exclusive interview for "This Week" that any that deal reached between Republicans and Democrats to avoid the looming sequester must - "without any question" - include revenue.
"The American people are on our side. The American people don't believe in these austere things. We believe that the rich should contribute. We believe we should fill those tax loopholes - get rid of them, I should say. And that's where we need to go," Reid said. "And I've got a pretty good fan base for that: the American people. Republicans, Democrats, and Independents."
Reid confirmed his position on revenue would apply to any deal put into place to avert a government shutdown or lift the debt ceiling as well. This puts him directly at odds with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky, who said earlier this month on "This Week" that the "tax issue is finished,"But Reid - invoking the GOP's 2012 presidential candidate Mitt Romney - suggested a deal could include such things as the elimination of oil and gas subsidies, or what he called "low hanging fruit." The Nevada senator also pushed back when I asked if he was sidelined during the so called "fiscal cliff" negotiations, telling me he played the "bad cop" during that period.
I also asked Sen. Reid about comprehensive immigration reform, which has moved to the front of the president's legislative agenda for his second term. Reid expressed confidence that legislation would pass the Senate, adding that it would be a "bad day" for Republicans and America if it did not. When I asked if certain parts of the legislation - such as the definition of border security or how gays are treated under the bill - could mean Republicans might not want to sign on, Reid called them "excuses."
"It's certainly gonna pass the Senate. And it would be a bad day for our country and a bad day for the Republican Party if they continue to [stand] in the way of this," he said. "If they're looking for an excuse not to support this legislation, this is another one. But the American people are past excuses. They want this legislation passed."
On legislation aimed at curbing gun violence following the murder of 20 children in Newtown, Conn. In December. Reid, who told me he has "lots of guns" that he keeps for "sentimental reasons," said he wants to "get something done on guns" and expressed support for universal background checks. He said he'd consider other proposals such as limiting gun magazine capacity and said he'd "take a look" at the ban on assault weapons, which Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., strongly supports. Reid added that the influential NRA would not single-handedly prevent action to prevent gun violence.
"I've been supported by the NRA on occasion. I know Wayne LaPierre, he's always been extremely pleasant to me. We have a good relationship. So, I am not here to demean the organization," he said. "Just because they resist it doesn't mean we can't do things. I mean- we have a lotta special interest groups that come and complain about things…we'll listen to them and make the right decision.
Lastly, Reid stood by Sen. Bob Menendez when I asked him about recent allegations against the New Jersey senator involving a political donor. Reid said he was comfortable with Menendez serving as chairman of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee while he was being investigated.
"He was a leader in the House. He's been a leader in the Senate. He's chairman of that committee. He'll do a wonderful job. And he's also an integral part of what we do with immigration reform. So, I have the utmost confidence in him," he said. "I have confidence he did nothing wrong. But that's what investigations are all about."