Las Vegas Sun

January 28, 2022

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With zinger, Reid hits a sensitive spot

WASHINGTON - Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid added another zinger to his repertoire this week: He called the 49 Senate Republicans "puppets" of the Bush administration.

It didn't sit well.

Nobody likes being called a yes man, particularly among the old guard in the U.S. Senate. Lawmakers pride themselves on the power a single senator has to make a difference.

But Reid couldn't help himself Tuesday when, from one end of Pennsylvania Avenue, the president was scolding Democrats for not getting their work done, while at the other end Senate Republicans were blocking his offer to vote on a key tax issue that needs to be resolved before Congress adjourns.

Faced with that scenario, Reid took to the floor and said if Congress is unable to fix the tax loophole in time to protect millions of middle-class American taxpayers, it would be President Bush's fault.

"He is the man who is pulling the strings on the 49 puppets he has here in the Senate," Reid said. "That is too bad for the country."

At least one old-guard senator wasn't going to stand for it.

Republican Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, among the more maverick of his party's lawmakers, ran through a litany of examples of Republicans' acting independently of Bush this year - from a vote on stem cells to an override of Bush's veto of a water infrastructure bill.

Then Specter hurled back an insult of his own, questioning whether Reid is "up to the job."

In a speech on the floor, Specter said if Reid is trying to get senators to work together, "he doesn't improve his case when he starts calling us puppets."

"I wonder if he is up to the job when he resorts to that kind of a statement, which only furthers the level of rancor and insults and animosity with that kind of an insulting comment," Specter said, suggesting that Reid had violated Rule 19 of the Senate, which says, essentially, that no senator should suggest ill intentions on the part of another.

At this pace, it's going to be a long, last haul before the holiday recess.

The chamber appears hopelessly deadlocked as the days dwindle, with Democrats blocked by Republican procedural hurdles from passing any legislation.

Reid has played hardball this year, and he and Specter have tangled before.

Specter said Reid was being "dictatorial" when the majority leader cut him off this summer following an all-night session on a failed vote to withdraw troops from Iraq. Reid wanted to move on to a new bill.

This week, Specter wanted a response from Reid.

Reid's response, as told to the Sun: "He obviously doesn't like to be called a puppet ... My reaction is he had to come to the floor and defend being a puppet."

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