Speaking to his Democratic base on Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said the war in Iraq, now five years old, is one factor dragging down the U.S. economy.
"Today is the beginning of the sixth year of the war in Iraq — think about that, the sixth year," he said. "A war that began with the worst foreign policy blunder in the history of our country, the invasion of Iraq, has now taken almost 4,000 American lives."
Reid pointed to the human cost of the war in deaths and injuries as well as the financial cost, which one economist recently pegged at $3 trillion.
Reid voted in favor of authorizing the war but now says he was misled by the Bush administration.
Most of the Nevada Democrat’s speech to members of the Paradise Democratic Club at the Teamsters Local 14 focused on partisan politics.
He emphasized party unity in the presidential election, saying that Senate colleagues Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, locked in battle for the Democratic nomination, are "two wonderful people."
"I work with both of these people," said Reid, who has not endorsed a candidate. "Both of them intellectually are geniuses. They’re impeccably honest. They work very hard. … Whoever gets the nomination, we must beat John McCain."
Reid also spoke of increasing his Senate majority, saying, "We’re going to pick up some seats. It’s just a question of how many."
Reid’s partner in the Nevada delegation, Republican Sen. John Ensign, heads the Republicans’ Senate election committee, which faces a tough year.
Ensign’s office issued a statement on the war anniversary Wednesday that cited "a renewed optimism for the future of the Iraqi people."
"Unbelievable strides have been made in their march toward freedom," Ensign said in his statement.
Reid spoke for about half an hour, including a question and answer session.
Asked about the economy, he said he thought the $170 billion stimulus package "will help, but not a lot."
The first thing the Senate will vote on when it returns from the current recess, he said, will be a housing stimulus package that will go further to reach those in need.
"The economy is in big trouble," he said. "The feds bailed out big business, and that’s fine, let them do that. But they’ve also got to bail out people who are suffering in this crisis."
Asked about the nominating process, Reid expressed confidence that Democrats will have a nominee well before their August national convention in Denver, despite the current appearance of stalemate.
He noted that it appears Florida will not stage another primary vote, while Michigan’s status is still uncertain. Both states should be seated at the convention, he said; it’s just a question of whether they will have an influence on the delegate count.