Reid rules out grand bargain

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Thursday he regrets being "too lenient" in previous budget talks with Republicans. 

Reid said he and President Obama were too willing to compromise in talks that took place in 2011 and 2012, and that he intends to drive a harder bargain going forward. 

“If you give a bully a dollar today, they ask for a dollar and a half tomorrow,” he said in a radio interview with Nevada's KNPR. “It has taken a while for all my caucus to come to that understanding. And quite frankly, the president, wonderful man that he is, he doesn’t like confrontation and he likes to work things out with people.”

“I was too lenient. Don’t blame it all on him,” Reid added. 

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He also ruled out the possibility that a budget conference committee convening next week will reach a "grand bargain" that would cut entitlements, raise taxes and reduce spending. 

“We are not going to have a grand bargain in the near future,” he said.

Instead, he suggested negotiators should focus on a replacement for sequestration and forget “happy talk” about a grand bargain.

The comments from Reid come just a week after the deal he reached with Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) to reopen the government and raise the debt ceiling. 

Democrats gave up next to nothing in that deal after Republicans had demanded the defunding of ObamaCare. In the end, the deal to raise the debt ceiling wasn't even accompanied by spending cuts, a top House GOP priority. 

Reid sounded emboldened on Thursday by the success of those talks, and suggested he would try to follow a similar pattern going forward. 

Congress faces a Jan. 15 deadline to fund the government again to prevent a shutdown, and a Feb. 7 deadline to raise the debt ceiling. 

Reid said a wider deal, involving entitlement cuts, could happen next year if mainstream Republicans can take control of the GOP away from the Tea Party. 

The Democratic leader signaled that he could be open to minor trimming of some Medicare or Social Security spending as part of deal that involves tax revenue. Obama in his last budget included more means testing for Medicare and lower Social Security benefits as part of a new inflation calculation. 

“The president has stuck is neck out ... there has to be some reciprocity here,” he said. 

Asked about entitlements, Reid said: “I am happy to do that on some grand bargain ... that is not going to happen this time.”

Reid in the interview claimed that the fact the House voted more than 40 times to repeal all or part of ObamaCare indicates many in the GOP have gone mad. 

He cited Einstein’s statement that repeating the same thing over and over and expecting a different result is insanity. 

“If Einstein’s right then we have a bunch of insane people in the House of Representatives,” Reid said. 

Reid told KNPR that he regretted concessions made to Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) in talks in 2011 and 2012. 

Reid agreed to nine years of automatic sequestration cuts as part of a deal to raise the debt ceiling in 2011. He also agreed to make most of the Bush-era tax rates permanent in the 2012 fiscal cliff deal.