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Harry Reid lambasted for saying steady jobless rate ‘really good’

Updated Friday, March 5, 2010 | 11:47 a.m.

Harry Reid on Senate floor

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Republicans are blasting Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for his awkward expression of the better-than-expected unemployment report out this morning showing 36,000 jobs lost last month.

Analysts were expecting as many as 75,000 jobs would be lost during February but the unemployment rate held steady at 9.7 percent.

"Today is a big day in America. Only 36,000 people lost their jobs today, which is really good," Reid said. "Unemployment rate around America has not changed. Prognosticators thought it would go up and it has not."

Republicans jumped on the comments, broadcasting an audio snippet to news outlets and the blogosphere.

"Senator Reid's 'big day,' unless you're one of those 36,000," read a headline from the Republican Senate communications shop.

Republican Danny Tarkanian, the former UNLV basketball player who is among those hoping to run against Reid this fall, called Reid "hard-hearted."

"There are the remarks of a hard-hearted man," said Tarkanian, who launched a list of Reid gaffes on his Web site. "Whatever Reid claims, he is no longer the hardscrabble boxer from Seachlight ... just another callous, soul-less politician from Washington."

Reid's office hit back at Republicans for taking the words out of context and rooting for failure.

"Only those Republicans who would root for failure would refuse to acknowledge any progress at all," said Reid spokesman Jim Manley. "Senator Reid knows there is much more work to do, which is why he led passage last week of the latest in a series of jobs bills that will create or save more than a million jobs.”

Reid himself moved quickly to repair the damage during a speech on the Senate floor as he scolded Republicans for playing politics rather than talking "like adults" about the economic situation.

"People should start betting on the success of this country, not the failure, as some have done," Reid said.

Reid reminded that a year ago, the nation was losing 750,000 jobs a month.

"If you compare where we were last year to where we are today, if you compare before the Recovery Act to where we are now, there's no question we stopped a terrible situation from getting even worse," Reid said.

He said he was well aware that "the unemployment rate is still too high" in Nevada and elsewhere, and more needs to be done to right the economy.

"I encourage my Republican friends to remember this critical context before their political reflexes lead them to make claims they know to be false," Reid said. "I warn them once again this country has no place, no patience for those who root for failure."

Reid's comments came after a productive week in Congress, as Democrats led passage of several bills aimed at helping the economy.

Both chambers have now passed Reid's $15 billion jobs bill that would give tax credits for hiring unemployed workers, and other small business breaks. The Senate also overcame a prolonged Republican objection to pass a 30-day extension of unemployment benefits and Cobra health care subsidies that President Barack Obama signed into law.

Friday's unemployment report showed the jobless rate held steady at 9.7 percent, even though a survey of economists by Dow Jones Newswires predicted as many as 75,000 jobs would be lost because of the poor winter weather that curtailed business.

The figures suggested the job market is slowly healing but that significant hiring has yet to occur.

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