WASHINGTON — In January, trying to get the congressional session off on the right foot, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada downplayed friction between the two political parties.
"I know that my friend Mitch McConnell has said his No. 1 issue in this next Congress is to get rid of (President Barack) Obama. I don’t think he really means that," Reid said of the Senate Republican leader from Kentucky.
On Tuesday, the latest in a series of impasses over the Democrats’ jobs agenda led a frustrated Reid to bury his comments from the earlier time.
The latest hitch is over a bill to reauthorize the Economic Development Administration, an agency created in 1965 to distribute grants and loans to distressed communities.
The bill is traditionally bipartisan, but Republicans are objecting to it, saying it amounts to unwarranted subsidies of local government and businesses and an invitation for pork-barrel spending.
Republicans are calling for the Senate to take up trade bills first with Colombia, South Korea and Panama.
"They’re talking in circles," Reid told reporters. He suggested he might have had it wrong back in January.
"I think (Republicans) are fulfilling the wish of the Republican leader. He said his No. 1 goal is to do everything he can to focus on … Obama not being re-elected," Reid said. "Now, I think that that’s obvious … that that’s their number one issue."
McConnell said Obama and congressional Democrats have their priorities wrong amid signs the economy continues to stumble.
"We need to change course, and a good place to start is with trade," McConnell said.
Republicans "are more interested in jobs in Colombia, Korea and Panama than they are here in the United States," Reid said in response.
Reid said Democrats will continue to press their agenda. "We are going to continue to focus attention on this," he said. "That is very clear."
Contact Stephens Washington Bureau Chief Steve Tetreault at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-783-1760.