AP Photo/Harry Hamburg
Thursday, April 22, 2010 | 11:28 a.m.
WASHINGTON -- The "Give 'em Hell, Harry" campaign trail version of the majority leader was on full display this afternoon as Sen. Harry Reid used some of his harshest language yet in calling out Republicans for obstructing Wall Street reform.
Reid stopped short of using the L-word to suggest Republicans were lying when they claimed the financial overhaul would allow the "endless taxpayer bailout of Wall Street," a much-repeated phrase from Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader.
"What he said here is not true," Reid said, slowly and carefully choosing his words.
"We're going to bring the strongest oversight ever to Wall Street," Reid said. "The facts and the American people are on our side."
Democrats have stepped up their offense as they press forward with Wall Street reform, refusing to let Republican criticisms go unanswered.
Democrats admit they were blindsided during the health care debate, stung by the speed with which Republican talking points entered the vernacular and swayed public opinon against the bill. Remember the weeks spent debunking imaginary death panels?
The result is a campaign-style assault coming from Democrats that has been unfolding over the past week, hitting a high note today as Reid and his leadership team played video loops of Republican leaders making comments they dissected as not true.
Republicans also have realized they may have overreached, and are toning down their rhetoric against the financial overhaul bill as it becomes clear popular support is growing for Wall Street reform. Republicans do not want to be seen as supporting bankers.
The tougher stance will help Reid in Nevada, where he needs to fire up his Democratic base to turn out votes in what will be his steep uphill climb for re-election. Democrats, especially progressives, have longed for Reid to take a stronger role as leader.
When pressed today if he agreed with a colleague who staid the Republicans were lying, Reid declined to bite.
Reid knows the dangers of calling someone a liar. He has been unrepentent in calling George W. Bush the L-word over the then-president's handling of the proposed nuclear waste dump at Yucca Mountain. Calling a sitting president a liar was a position that even Reid's supporters have reportedly said went too far.
The financial reform bill is being set up for a possible vote next week.