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Q+A: Harry Reid:

Senate Majority Leader: ‘Democrats can’t be afraid of going forward’


Associated Press

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada is surrounded by reporters as he leaves the Senate floor to meet with Senate Democrats regarding the government shutdown and debt ceiling on Capitol Hill in Washington on Saturday, Oct. 12, 2013.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid sat down for a 24-minute exclusive interview with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow last week.

They talked about the federal government shutdown, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, and the possibility that Republicans could hold their national convention on Reid’s home turf: Las Vegas.

Here are excerpts from the interview:

On Republicans’ shutdown strategy:

(The Democrats have) had it with all this “Give me this and we’ll do this.” We were through doing that. We came to the decision that it was unfair to the American people to keep trying to work something out with these people (who weren’t cooperative). ... These bullies were going to make us respond ’cause they were going to shut down the government; they were going to default on the debt of the United States of America. So we did the right thing, it worked out well, we hung together. We have to do that in the future.

But my disappointment is the so-called “moderates” who went along with this, vote after vote after vote.

(The Republicans) have offended African-Americans. Now, it’s Hispanics, it’s Asians, it’s women, the ... gay and lesbian community and others, in fairness. That wasn’t good enough. And then, they (have gone) after the poor lately, and cut food stamps by $40 billion. They’re going after everybody. The Republican Party is staggering. I don’t know who they can expect to have vote for them. I don’t see it.

On the Employment Non-Discrimination Act:

I’ve been a supporter of this for a long time. ... Why in the world should someone in modern-day America be allowed to be fired, have their employment be discriminated in any way against, because of their sexual orientation? They shouldn’t be. We are calling for fairness.

On the challenges that face the Democratic Party:

Democrats have to realize ... that rich people in America are willing to pay more. The only ones who don’t want them to pay more are Republicans in Congress. They’re in a different world.

So we as Democrats can’t be afraid of going forward on the issues. That is, we need to build highways, roads, bridges, dams, water systems, sewer systems. It creates jobs. For every billion dollars we spend, we create 47,500 high-paying jobs and thousands of other jobs that spin off from that. We have to do things that help people out there, like the minimum wage. We have to do things that protect Social Security, Medicare. I am going to apologize to no one for what we have done with the deficit.

I don’t want any lectures about Democrats being “for big spending.” We have sacrificed a great deal for the well-being of our country, and I’m happy to have done that. I want to go back to doing what we should be doing as a country, creating jobs, becoming more competitive around the world.

On ending the automatic budget cuts of the sequester:

I’m willing to get rid of a sequestration if it’s fair. I’m not just going to bail out the defense industry. ... There has to be some revenue. Let’s not play around with this. We have to have revenue, whether it’s taxes or whatever; we have to have more revenue. I hope we could do what (Mitt) Romney wanted to do, close tax loopholes.

On the filibustering epidemic:

(Reid began by talking about judicial nominations in the Washington, D.C., circuit court.) This is a court that needs to have everybody on it. These are some of the most complex cases that come to any appellate court. So if they want to turn (the first candidate) down, I have two more that they have to look at. I’m not going to stop with her. ... So we’re going to proceed forward, I’m not going to issue any threats to anyone, but it is something I’m going to be watching closely.

(The prevalence of filibustering) is something the Republicans have invented. We didn’t — there was no filibuster of everything. So things have changed.

Lyndon Johnson (was) majority leader for six years. I have been the majority leader now for 6 1/2 years, or thereabouts. He had one filibuster he had to overcome. I am now up to about 430 or 440.

On tracking the National Security Administration:

First of all, we live in a new world, ... with people trying to do so many evil things, so intelligence gathering is different than it used to be. So I don’t know if we’ve got our arms around it, if we fully understand it. I support members of the Senate, a number of them my friends, saying we need more transparency.

On the possibility of the Republican National Convention being held in Las Vegas during his re-election campaign:

I’ve learned over the years to not take too much personally. Some of my friends have spent a lot of money on trying to defeat me, defeat my senators, but I honestly have not had it affect our friendship. Sheldon Adelson and I still meet. If he has a problem, I try to solve it for him. (Same with) Steve Wynn.

So (the RNC has) to make a decision if they want to come to Las Vegas or not. As far as I’m concerned, it would be good for business if they wanted to come. We as Democrats have had that opportunity many times, but we have decided not to for a number of reasons. The Republicans are going to have to decide that on their own.

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