Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid may be struggling in his bid for re-election this year, but the Nevada Democrat says healthcare reform isn’t to blame. Rather, Reid says that constituents expressed gratitude for the landmark health coverage legislation when he traveled his home state during the just-concluded Easter recess.
Also, the new healthcare law, which sparked outrage among Republicans and so-called “tea party” activists, failed to prevent a Democrat from Florida from winning election to Congress in a special election.
Reid, who along with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi steers the Democrats agenda on Capitol Hill, faces an uphill climb to win a fifth term in November. This year is the first time Reid will face voters in his traditionally swing state as the Democrats’ majority leader.
Republicans are eager to defeat Reid, who would be the second Democratic majority leader the GOP unseated in a row, after Sen. Tom Daschle of South Dakota lost his race in 2004. Reid has acknowledged the animosity toward him among conservatives, reportedly telling voters back home at a campaign stop, “I need your help.”
Reid says, however, voters in his state aren’t angry over healthcare reform, which President Obama signed into law last month over strenuous — and sometimes angry — objection from Republicans.
Speaking Monday on the Senate floor, Reid reminded colleagues that Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky had predicted Democrats would get an “earful” while they were back home for the Easter break, which ended this week.
“Well, he was right,” Reid says. “Everywhere I went in Nevada – from Elko to Carson City, from Stagecoach to my hometown of Searchlight, from Nevadans young and old – people came up to me and said, ‘Thank you.’”
Reid says that a mother told him how grateful she was that she would finally be able to cover her child’s diabetes, and that parents are pleased that they are that they’ll be able to keep their children on their insurance until their mid-twenties.
“Out-of-work Nevadans told me how grateful they are now that they will finally be able to afford their own health care while they find a full-time job,” Reid says. “Seniors told me how grateful they are now that we’re finally fully closing the prescription-drug coverage gap so they no longer have to choose between which pills to skip and which to split.
“And I can’t tell you how many small-business people told me that because of the tax cuts this Congress passed and our President signed into law, this year they will be able to afford health insurance for the first time in their lives,” Reid adds. “These people haven’t been fooled by the opposition’s strategy of myths and misinformation. They aren’t frightened by the campaign of fear and false cries of socialism.”
Meanwhile, the GOP failed to ignite the furor over healthcare in a special election in south Florida, where a Democrat on Tuesday won the first election since Obama signed the new law. There was no Massachusetts-style upset in which Republican Scott Brown in January upended decades of Democratic control of the Bay State’s Senate delegation by running against healthcare reform.
In the Florida race, state lawmaker Ted Deutsch won the contest to replace former Rep. Robert Wexler (D-Fla.), who resigned in January to take over as head of a Washington think tank. Republican candidate Ed Lynch campaigned, and lost, on a pledge to repeal the new healthcare reform law. Florida’s 19th Congressional District is heavily Democratic, and voted for Obama in 2008 by more than 60 percent.
The publisher of the news site On The Hill, Scott Nance has covered Congress and the federal government for more than a decade.