Las Vegas Sun

November 21, 2017

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Reid taking punches from the left, too

Some liberals don’t think he’s been strong enough on health care reform

Harry Reid

Harry Reid

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has not been getting much love from the left lately.

Some of his liberal friends have been so unenthused over his performance on health care reform one anonymous group was toying with supporting a Republican against him in his reelection campaign next year.

MSNBC host Keith Olbermann wants to stage a one-day free health clinic in Nevada to nudge Reid toward a stronger commitment to a public option in the health care bill.

And a new group, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, secured thousands of signatures overnight, thanks to a shout-out on “The Rachel Maddow Show,” calling on Reid to yank the committee chairmanships from any Democratic senator who votes to block a public-option health care bill from having an up-or-down vote in the Senate.

“If there was ever a time we needed to see strong and stronger leadership from him, it’s now,” said Stephanie Taylor, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee.

From where he sits in Reno, Bob Fulkerson, director of the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, has just a few words of advice for the out-of-towners: This isn’t San Francisco.

Fulkerson is all for free clinics. And he sees some value in pressuring the Senate committee chairmen not to block the vote.

But when groups start saying they would support Reid’s yet unnamed Republican opponent in 2010 in a state that is struggling to hold on to its new blue hue, he feels the need to intervene.

“These groups are kind of like the Tea Baggers of the left,” Fulkerson said. “They’ve never been to Nevada. They don’t understand what’s happening here on the ground. For them to threaten Reid’s ouster is completely irresponsible and outrageous.”

Local progressives may have their own gripes with the majority leader. But when other liberals try to take the top Democrat down, they said, they’ve got his back.

A Las Vegas columnist snarked recently that while there are 100 “Republicans for Reid” lined up for the 2010 election, he doubted a liberal could “muster even a quarter of that number.”

In no time “Progressives for Reid” was launched and within two weeks had collected 200 names.

It’s no secret Reid is not the most popular politician in libertarian-leaning Nevada. But what pundits have marveled over is that the senator’s favorability rating among Democrats is running at an unhealthy 32 percent, according to a recent poll.

Reid is working to shore up support from his home base while steering his politically diverse caucus of senators in Washington toward a cohesive vote on health care reform.

Just because Reid says he is for the public option won’t make it so.

Oddly, the attacks on him could help to reinforce to his reluctant senators that most Americans tell pollsters they want the public option, despite fierce opposition from Republicans and the insurance industry.

Reid’s office offered this take on the Olbermann campaign:

“Having grown up in a family that couldn’t afford health care in a town with no doctor, Sen. Reid is familiar with the challenges Olbermann described … If this effort helps people in need, while sending a message to opponents of health care reform, then that’s a good thing.”

Fulkerson, a fifth-generation Nevadan, doubts Reid will be moved much by the threats or the petitions.

“I just don’t see Senator Reid buckling to that kind of stuff,” he said.

“I think particularly people from outside the state of Nevada have to realize this is not San Francisco. He’s not Nancy Pelosi,” Fulkerson said. “He he comes from a traditionally very conservative state, and in spite of that, on this issue, he’s proven liberal, and we need to appreciate that.”

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