Interview with Harry Reid
Bob Geiger’s post this morning is his interview with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV). It’s long, but well worth the time it takes to read. Here’s some excerpts:
Geiger: I think even those of us who wanted this so badly and who wanted you to become Majority Leader felt deep down that this was just too many seats to make up…
Reid: Until election night I never even considered it. I was rationalizing that three seats would be 48 and that’s certainly better than 45, but 49 would be wonderful — change the committee structure, but here we are.
Geiger: Here we are. But having endured the antics of the Republican majority the last few years — both from a procedural and policy point of view — how do you balance now, as incoming Majority Leader, taking every advantage you possibly can, for the Democratic party and the Democratic party vision, but not doing a lot of what they did and, in the course of that, becoming like them?
Reid: I think first of all you have to apply a very simple principle: It’s called the Golden Rule. I will not treat them like they treated me. We’re going to have Congress the way it ran for more than 200 years. We’re going to have committee hearings, we’re going to look and see what the White House is doing. We have a Republican president, but it doesn’t matter — Republican or Democratic president, Congress has the ability and the obligation of Congressional oversight, which has not existed for six years and we have to do that.
Geiger: One ongoing drama I’ve seen in watching the Senate every day is the battle that Senator Kennedy has had over the minimum wage — and seeing how many times that’s been shot down by the Republicans unless it happened to be attached to an Estate Tax cut. I think people are very encouraged with what they expect to happen with that in the coming months and what I’m wondering, sir, is that for low-income Americans who may be a little disillusioned with Washington and maybe not understand how it operates, what can you say to them about the minimum wage being raised with Democrats in charge of the Congress?
Reid: To show you how strongly we feel about this, we told the Republicans that there will be no Congressional pay raise unless you raise the minimum wage. There’s no minimum wage increase, there’s no Congressional pay raise for the first time in many years.
We’re serious about this. We want the people in this country, the hardest working, to be able to work instead of going on welfare and make a living. Right now, you can’t do that. You make a little over $10,000 a year working 40 hours a week — try living on that. It’s very hard to do. So I feel comfortable that we can pass a minimum wage increase. I guess I put it in this vernacular: I dare the Republicans to stop us from doing it.
Geiger: Do you feel confident that it will happen in the first month or two of the new Congress?
Reid: It will happen in the first six weeks that we’re back.
Geiger: You’re saying it will happen in the first six weeks?
Reid: It will happen. Yes.
Geiger: Along the same lines. I’m from a rural area and I’m the first person in my family to get a college degree and that happened because of the G.I. Bill. I went into the Navy a long time ago under the old G.I. Bill and it allowed me to move forward in life. I understand that Senator-elect Webb plans to bring something to the floor to restore an old-school type G.I. Bill for Veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. Where do you see that going?
Reid: I think Senator-elect Webb is the right person to do this. He’s decorated for heroism in Vietnam. He’s written books and plays and movies about war. He’s an expert on war and he also thinks he knows a little bit about peace. He’s got a son as we speak serving in Iraq and he believes that the G.I. Bill of Rights educated several generations and it’s not doing that any more. We’ve got to change our tack and go back to some of the basics that we’ve lost.
Reid: One of the things that I am dismayed about is why these Veterans groups even support Republicans. They under-fund their benefits, they have little concern for some of the new things — agent orange, they fought that — we now have the Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome which is running rampant among all these people and the Republicans won’t fund these programs. We do that.
The finest hospitals, I should say medical care, in the country today is the Veterans Administration. VA Hospitals. Now that’s not a perfect health-care system but it’s the best we have and the Republicans under-fund it every year. It’s under-funded next year by this president by at least $30 billion — billion not million.
And we have these men and women coming back from Iraq, this unusual war, with all kinds of problems. We have 23,000 who have been wounded, we have 2,000 of them with multiple amputations, we have a third of that 23,000 who have head injuries — blind, missing limbs, paralysis. We fight for money for these programs and Republicans don’t, so I don’t understand why they would support Republicans.
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