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Senator Harry Reid On Debt Talks, Gun Control: 5 Takeaways

Reid To Obama: Stand Your Ground On Debt

Last Friday, Senator Harry Reid sent a letter to President Obama signed by Sens. Durbin, Schumer and Murray telling him to “hang in there” and resist pressure to raise the debt ceiling. 

“This isn’t an effort to get more spending. This is an effort to pay our bills. How could the United States of America not pay its bills?”

Reid adds that Republican demands for cuts in spending are rarely followed by aggressive legislation.

“For example, we passed on a bi-partisan basis in the Senate a very strong farm bill. It cuts subsidies that go back for 60, 70 years. It saves the country 24 billion dollars. It is, I repeat, a bi-partisan bill," says Reid. "The House refused to take it up because they want to continue those worthless subsidies that go to rice farmers that don’t even grow rice.”  

Reid Thinks Deal To Avoid The Cliff Helped Working People

He says the legislation isn’t perfect, but Reid thinks the fiscal cliff negotiations accomplished something important: “delinking” the rich and the middle class.

“I would have gotten (the tax increases) down to (households earning) $250K, not $400K, but we delinked it,” says Reid. “It wasn’t perfect legislation, but we accomplished something we were trying to do for years, delink the rich from the middle class.”

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Boehner Is Letting Tea Party ‘Anarchists’ Run The Republican Party

“There are about 80 to 90 members of the house who are controlling what goes on over there,” says Reid. “What (House Speaker John) Boehner has done, and it’s been a mistake, is try to pass legislation with a minority of the majority, and you see editorials all over the country saying ‘Mr. Speaker, there’s 435 members in the House. Let them all vote.’”

He thinks threats of a government shutdown by Tea Party-backed Sen. Fischer of Nebraska and other Tea Party-influenced legislators are similar to anarchist tactics.

“When I was in school we studied political science and history. We studied about the anarchists – they were the people that went out and threw Molotov cocktails,” says Reid. “They didn’t believe in government at any level. Well, the modern day anarchist aren’t throwing these kinds of bombs, they’re throwing a different kind of bomb. And the bomb they’re throwing is trying to shut down government.”  

Immigration Is Broken And Needs To Be Fixed

“We’re working now to come up with, very quickly, a bipartisan bill, and there’s been tentative agreement at this stage,” says Reid. “If that doesn’t happen, we’re going to move to an immigration reform bill and people are going to have to belly up to the bar and vote.”

Reid says that as majority leader he has the right to put 10 pieces of legislation before congress and immigration reform will be one of his first or second priorities.

Violence, Mental Health And Guns

For Reid, the Newtown shootings are a call, not only to look at gun control, but also violence in the media.

“Guns have to be part of the discussion, and they should be. But we also have to look at video games. Games have changed since my children were children,” says Reid. He also points to television and “movies, gory movies” as potentially inciting violent behavior.  

Mental health reform is also a part of the equation, he says.

“A woman wrote a column ‘I Am Adam Lanza’s Mother.’ She has a child who’s now a teenager and he’s violent on occasion,” says Reid. “When I first started practicing law in Nevada if a parent had a problem with a child they could go to a judge and say this kid is violent, you should have somebody look at him.”

Reid added that, while this system could have more easily been abused, it may have also been helpful in limiting violence resulting from mentally unstable individuals.

“We really have a serious problem. Obamacare will be a big help to it because it’s going to allow more mental health care,” says Reid.  

 

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