By Alexander Bolton - 02/02/10 03:48 PM EST
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Tuesday accused Republicans of endangering national security, flipping a traditional GOP line of attack.
In a floor speech, Reid accused Senate Republicans of making the nation more vulnerable to attack by blocking nominees to key security posts.
“When he tried to blow up that plane, the top positions of both intelligence agencies within the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security were empty. Why? Because Republican senators refuse to let this body hold a vote on these highly capable people the president has asked to serve in these roles,” Reid said.
Reid also noted that Republicans had prevented the Senate from confirming a permanent boss at the Transportation Security Administration, the agency in charge of airline safety.
National security has typically been a political advantage for Republicans, who have scored many victories over the years by accusing Democrats of being soft on defense.
But in a flash of political jujitsu, Reid threw the charge at Republicans, accusing them of placing politics above security.
Reid highlighted four national-security positions that have remained vacant because of Senate GOP objections:
· The undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, the No. 3 job at the Pentagon.
· The assistant secretary of State for Intelligence and Research, the head of State’s intelligence operation.
· The undersecretary of Homeland Security for Intelligence and Analysis.
· The U.S. representative to the Conference on Disarmament, who is tasked with promoting the control of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.
“We all know Republicans have dedicated themselves to grinding government to a halt,” Reid said.
“It’s why they have wasted countless hours and shattered remarkable records for stubbornness,” he added. “It’s why, when we have faced questions of national security, they have answered with politics.”
Republicans countered by arguing that Reid himself has played politics with national security. One GOP source pointed to a statement Reid made to reporters in April of 2007 when he observed that voter discontent over the war in Iraq would result in big Democratic electoral gains.
“We are going to pick up Senate seats as a result of this war,” Reid told The Washington Post.
Reid’s statements on Thursday came after Republicans ripped a page out of the Democratic playbook during the healthcare debate. Republicans have repeatedly accused Democrats of proposing to cut Medicare payments for seniors’ healthcare.
In a twist of usual political roles, Republicans tried to position themselves as staunch defenders of Medicare while portraying Democrats as eager to cut the program.
Democrats rebutted the charge by arguing that not a single guaranteed benefit would have been cut by the Senate health bill.
Democrats also reminded the public that former Republican Leader Bob Dole (Kan.) once bragged about voting against creating Medicare.