By Russell Berman - 01/05/14 11:17 AM EST
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Sunday said he was not currently considering an elimination of the filibuster for legislation, but he warned that the country could not remain “paralyzed” by Republican obstruction.
“We’re not there yet,” he said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “No, I’m not thinking about that today.”
In the same interview, Reid denounced in his typically harsh rhetoric Republican opposition to a range of Democratic priorities, including an extension of long-term unemployment insurance, raising the minimum range and strengthening background checks for gun purchases.
On all of those issues, the Nevada Democrat said Republican members of Congress were out of step with Republicans nationwide, who, he said, supported the measures in public polls.
“It would seem to me that five Republicans in the Senate should agree with Republicans around the country,” Reid said, referring to the number of Republicans who would need to join 55 Democrats and independents to advance legislation. “They’re out of touch with what’s going on in America today.”
Pressed by moderator Bob Schieffer on rules changes in the Senate, Reid said, “We cannot have a country that’s paralyzed.”
The Senate plans to hold a key test vote on Monday on an extension of emergency jobless benefits for people who have been out of work for 26 weeks or longer. The insurance lapsed in December, cutting off benefits for 1.3 million people.
Reid touted the support of Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.), but he said he didn’t know if other Republicans would sign on to gain the necessary 60 votes.
He argued that the policies were needed to tackle income equality. “The rich are getting richer, the poor are getting poorer, and the middle class is being squeezed out of existence,” Reid said.
On ObamaCare, Reid defended the new law, even though he criticized the initial rollout by the Obama administration as “awful.” Citing a recent conversation with White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, Reid said the enrollment numbers for the insurance exchanges would be “staggering” come April 1, when the six-month sign-up period ends.
“It’s already working,” he said of the law. “Republicans should get a life and start talking about doing something constructive.”
Appearing on "Face the Nation" after Reid, two House Republicans, Reps. Matt Salmon (Ariz.) and Peter King (N.Y.), criticized the Senate majority leader's tone and attacks on Republicans.
“I think it’s interesting that Senator Reid spent his entire time just blaming Republicans for everything, every calamity in the world and not really offering any solutions," Salmon said. "I think that’s why the American people think Congress is so dysfunctional, because it’s just partisan politics."
Salmon said Reid should start bringing up the 39 House-passed bills that have languished in the Senate, and he criticized the government-centered philosophy that he said Democrats were espousing.
"The fact is, these giveaway programs don’t create one job, not one job," he said. "The answer isn’t government. The answer is the private sector. Let’s get it going again."
Salmon, a conservative, and King, who is more centrist on domestic issues, split to some degree on the question of extending emergency unemployment benefits. Salmon hewed to the leadership's position that any extension must offset the $26 billion annual cost. King said he supported a temporary extension, even if it was not fully paid for, as long as Democrats also agreed to reduce federal red tape in other areas.
Likewise, Salmon voiced opposition to raising the minimum wage while King, who has supported it in the past, said he would be in favor of it under certain conditions.
"I think we have to find ways to compromise on all the issues [Reid] was talking about," King said. "I think there’s a possibility for compromise."
--This report was updated at 11:40 a.m.