Sunday, Dec. 8, 2013 | 2 a.m.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made his rounds with the Nevada media this past week as he toured Reno and the Las Vegas Valley.
The Nevada Democrat spent part of an afternoon with the Sun, where he talked at length about immigration; Republican “anarchists”; Yucca Mountain; Rep. Joe Heck, R-Nev.; Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev.; prostitution; income inequality; President Barack Obama’s health care law, and his perfect candidate for Nevada governor in the 2014 election.
Here are some excerpts from that conversation:
- Yucca Mountain
Reid says the plan to create a high-level nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain is still dead, and the nuclear industry lobby doesn’t have the lobbying muscle to push for Yucca Mountain funding.
“The Republicans have tried for many Congresses now to get that program started again, but it’s not going on. Nothing has happened. We are in the fifth year of the Obama administration. We had eight years of Clinton. There’s no question the nuclear industry was a lot more powerful than it is today because the environmental community is totally on our side on this issue and the nuclear industry doesn’t have as much clout as they used to have. It’s as simple as that.”
- The Tea Party, Part I
Reid has repeated numerous times in the past few months that “anarchists” have hijacked the Republican Party, comparing them to anarchists of the late 1800s and early 1900s:
“The anarchists of those days were violent to property and people. The new anarchy movement is not violent against property or people. It is violent against government, but they are the same anarchists. This is the Tea Party that has taken over the Republican Party. ...
"Any day that is a bad day for government is a good day for the anarchists, for the Tea Party.”
Reid led Democrats to change Senate rules to allow a simple 51-vote majority in the Senate to move presidential nominations forward. He said that would stop Republicans from obstructing appointments with filibusters and delaying tactics. The move helps Democrats right now but could hurt them later if Republicans control the Senate.
But Reid doesn’t appear to mind.
“People say to me, well what happens if you’re in the minority? ‘Tough! I’m in the minority.’ This majority rule is not such a bad deal. ... Democrats will someday be in the minority. We have to live with those rules and we should be able to. A president, Democrat or Republican, should be able to have the team he wants.”
- Immigration reform
Reid chalks up Congress’ failure to get an immigration bill passed to House Speaker John Boehner’s inaction.
“Comprehensive immigration reform, we could do that in five minutes. It would pass overwhelmingly in the House, but Boehner won’t let them vote on it.”
Still, he said, “I think there’s going to be so much pressure on the House that they’ll have to pass it.”
That’s because, as Reid explained, demographics demand it.
“We have a lot of these congressional districts, they don’t care because they don’t have people of color in their congressional districts,” he said. “They don’t care. But there are a number of them who do care. If the Republicans ever want to elect a Republican president again, they’re going to have to get right with the Hispanic and Asian community who by more than 70 percent voted for (President Barack) Obama last time.”
National polls conducted this year show majorities of the Hispanic and Asian electorate support a pathway to citizenship for about 11 million people currently in the United States illegally.
- Sen. Dean Heller
Reid had few kind words about his relationship with Nevada’s other senator, Dean Heller, the Republican. Their two years representing Nevada together has Reid yearning for Heller’s predecessor:
"I miss John Ensign. I had a wonderful relationship with John Ensign. He and I didn’t agree politically, but we had a wonderful relationship. He was a man of his word. We worked really well together on issues dealing with Nevada. I mean, here’s this really right-wing Republican and we did lots of good stuff on the environment. I was hoping that Dean would be the same. Maybe he’ll be that way in the future. It’s not that way now."
- Rep. Joe Heck
Rep. Joe Heck, R-Nev., got thrashed when Reid noted that Heck had voted against Obama’s executive order to halt deportations of people in the country illegally who were brought to the United States as minors. Heck had said he voted against the order in a congressional amendment as a protest against executive overreach, and he introduced a so-called Dream Act to give that group of immigrants a pathway to citizenship. That didn’t stop Reid from laying into him:
“Heck is a hypocrite. I mean, this Dream Act is something I’ve been after for years. We have in America about 1 million people who have no other home than America. They came here as little tiny kids. And so what we’ve said through the administrative work that Obama did, 'You can’t be deported. You can work, you can get a driver's license, you can join the military and you can go to school.' Heck voted against that. Heck, talk about the king of the right-wingers, there’s a few of them, but the king is probably Steve King from Iowa. Boehner allowed an amendment to be voted on that would do away with a Dream Act. Heck voted for that. How he could in good conscience face this Hispanic community, I don’t understand, or the Asian community.
"The Republican Party in the Congress, including the Senate, don’t represent mainstream Rs around the country. They are being driven by this shrill Tea Party and they go along with what they want, including Heck, who is afraid that if he doesn’t vote with them, as he does vote with them on everything, on everything, all of these crazy things they vote on, he votes with them. And he does it because he’s afraid he’s going to get a Tea Party person to run against him. That’s what he’s afraid of. Maybe Sharron Angle will come back and run against him, although I don’t think she’s in his district.”
- The Tea Party, Part II
When a Sun editor asked Reid what stories aren’t being told in Washington, D.C., he took the opportunity to again highlight how he thinks the Republican Party is too conservative. He also again attacked the guy he called “my boy Heck,” although he did not elaborate on Heck’s voting record:
“The craziness of the Tea Party folks, I don’t know why people don’t go after that.
"I just think it’s terrible what they’ve done for the country. I repeat, 75 percent of them voted to keep the government closed and default on our debt. Gee whiz. And my boy Heck, he votes along with them for everything.”
When asked about whether Reid would revive his 2011 attempt to get the Nevada Legislature to outlaw prostitution statewide, he said the only thing he’s doing right now to fight prostitution is “not giving them any business. That’s my protest.”
“Well that went over, my speech there, like the proverbial pregnant high-jumper. It didn’t do too well even though I thought it was right. I thought it’s not good to bring people to the state. And I know a little bit about prostitution. I grew up in a town that had thirteen houses of ill repute at one time, Searchlight. In my book I wrote about prostitution. ... It didn’t go over very well, so I’m not going to talk about it again.”
- The middle class
When asked about what his plans are to reduce income inequality and help the middle class, Reid said he’d like to try something that even he admits might not get a positive vote in the Senate:
“One of the first things we have to do is increase the minimum wage. We have people working two minimum wage jobs, 80 hours a week, and they can barely make it. We’re going to try to raise that soon to $10 an hour, and what we’re going to try to do this time that we’ve never done before is put a cost of living increase in it so we don’t have to keep coming back and revisiting this.”
- Health care
Although the American people have lost trust in Obama over his untruthful remarks that consumers can keep their health insurance if they like it, Reid argued that Obama hadn’t really been so off after Americans began to receive cancellation notices of their current insurance products because they did not comply with the mandates of Obama’s federal health care law, which was passed in 2010.
“The issue, as the president said, if you like your insurance you can keep it, which is true. But remember these policies change every year, so they’ve changed several times so it’s not the same policy they set; nobody has the same policy they had four years ago. They’re all new policies. So California, Nevada, when they tried to reinstate these policies, they said, 'No, we’re not going to do that because we think you’re better off going to get more insurance.' That’s 75 to 80 percent of the time actually true.”
- Redford for governor?
Reid wouldn’t speculate much about whom Democrats are considering backing in the 2014 election for Nevada governor. Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval has already been campaigning for months, but Democrats don’t have a candidate yet. Asked whom he’d consider a perfect candidate, he replied: “Robert Redford at age 40.”