Reid (Briefly) Off-Key on Stimulus
For the past week, cynical Congressional reporters and observers have been treated to the highly unusual sight of Democratic leaders, GOP leaders and President Bush singing a rousing chorus of Kumbaya on the forthcoming economic stimulus package.
Heartwarming as all the bipartisan photo-ops and talk of unity have been, one key Democrat has sounded a discordant note: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.).
In advance of his speech today on the stimulus, Bush held a conference call Thursday with the bipartisan leadership to lay out his thoughts. After the call, the various leaders put out releases again full of bipartisan good spirits -- except Reid.
"I am disappointed that [Bush] is rejecting a request from leaders of both parties and both chambers to work with us directly to develop a bipartisan package rather than unilaterally detailing his own approach without Congressional input," Reid said in his release. "The President's strategy threatens to unnecessarily politicize the inevitable bipartisan negotiations we will need to quickly enact legislation."
Here's the genesis of Reid's beef: Last week, Reid and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) sent Bush a letter suggesting that everyone keep their powder dry and not present specific plans for a stimulus package before bipartisan negotiations began.
All the Congressional leaders, from both parties, made the same point to Bush on the conference call Thursday, but Bush still said he was going to give a speech laying out his plan. Though everyone wanted Bush to hold back on specifics, only Reid went public with his complaints.
Following the call, Bush was concerned enough about the lawmakers' reaction that he reportedly placed a separate call to House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) to talk it over. Soon after, he apparently decided not to go into heavy detail in his speech today. That did the trick, and Reid was back with the feel-good program today.
A former boxer, Reid has always had a pugnacious side, once even calling Bush a "loser." But a Reid aide said that the Leader was simply being cognizant of how hard it would be to get a stimulus package over the Senate's 60-vote threshold, and didn't want Bush to prejudice the debate before it even begins.
And Reid is busy multitasking, since the crucial Nevada presidential caucus -- which he worked hard to make happen -- is tomorrow. Reid has stayed neutral in that contest, but as the stimulus talks have shown, he doesn't hold his tongue about much else.
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