Michael Steele: Harry Reid Should Apologize or Leave Leadership for Slavery Remark

5935831Republicans are livid over Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's statement comparing opposition to health care reform efforts to opposition to ending slavery, perhaps none more so than Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele.

Steele, who suggested that liberals are playing the race card on the issue on CBS' The Early Show this morning, put out a statement calling for Reid to leave the Democratic leadership if he does not apologize for his "offensive and absurd statements."

Steele suggested Reid has lost "his ability to reason."

"Having made this disgraceful statement on the floor of the United States Senate, Mr. Reid should immediately apologize on the Senate floor to his colleagues, to his constituents, and to the American people. If he is going to stand by these statements, the Democrats must immediately reconsider his fitness to lead them," he said.

On the Senate floor yesterday, Reid said that "instead of joining us on the right side of history, all Republicans have come up with is this 'slow down, stop everything, let's start over.'

"You think you've heard these same excuses before? You're right," he said.

"In this country, there were those who dug in their heels and said, 'Slow down, it's too early. Let's wait. Things aren't bad enough,' about slavery," said Reid. "When women [wanted] to vote -- 'Slow down, there will be a better day to do that.'... When this body was on the verge of guaranteeing equal civil rights to everyone, regardless of the color of their skin, some senators resorted to the same filibuster threats that we hear today."

Republicans immediately labeled the comments "desperate," if not worse.

"Folks tend to crack under pressure," said Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) at a press conference, as The Hill reports. "It is an indication of desperation."

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) asked Reid to apologize or clarify his comments to make clear "that he was not referring to those of us who we believe are ... carrying out and performing our constitutional duties."

Reid spokesman Jim Manley called the "feigned outrage" a "ploy" designed "to distract from the fact [Republicans] have no plan to lower the cost of healthcare, stop insurance-company abuses or protect Medicare."

For more on Steele's comments on The Early Show this morning, click here.

"In fact, you know, I'm kind of sick and tired of the left and Democrats in this country when they get into trouble and don't get their way and their backs are up against the wall on legislation or whatever it is they're trying to do, they go to that card, they play that race card, that slavery card, that civil rights card," Steele said.

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