Reid Surprises Allies, Opponents Alike With Stance on Antiwar Bill

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid did not tell fellow Democrats that he backs a firm date for troop withdrawal.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid did not tell fellow Democrats that he backs a firm date for troop withdrawal. (By Brendan Smialowski -- Bloomberg News)
By Lois Romano
Thursday, April 12, 2007

Democratic senators and staff members, and even his political opponents, were stunned when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced last week that he would co-sponsor the strongest antiwar bill floating around the Capitol -- one that would cut off funding for the Iraq war within a year and set a hard deadline for withdrawing troops.

Reid (D-Nev.) had been cautious about endorsing a timeline for ending the war and had advised colleagues to stick together in order to reach a unified compromise, rather than stake out independent positions on Iraq. So when the leader said he will support a measure from Sen. Russell Feingold (Wis.), one of the Democrats' loudest war critics, and neglected to notifying his caucus beforehand, jaws dropped.

"Where exactly Harry Reid is, is anybody's guess," said one senior White House official, who requested anonymity.

Jim Manley, a spokesman for Reid, did not dispute that Reid went into business for himself, so to speak. "Senator Reid made it very clear that that this was not a caucus position, and that each member is free to vote as they choose when it comes to the Feingold bill," Manley said.

Manley and other sources said that Reid was reacting from his gut, having just returned from visiting injured soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

His announcement came as the Senate and House begin negotiations to write a single compromise bill from their two spending measures, which call for more than $100 billion in military spending for Iraq and Afghanistan. President Bush has promised to veto any bill with a timeline for ending the war.

Democratic Hill sources fret that by staking a position so far to the left, Reid will give a bright green light to other members to move in that direction -- making it harder to satisfy the party's base with anything less than a hard timeline for withdrawal.

Wanted: A New Face for the Clinton Campaign

Word around town is that Hillary Rodham Clinton's presidential operation is looking for an additional spokesman or spokeswoman to be the "face" of the campaign. Any such person, we're told, would not disrupt the current hierarchal lineup, led by communications chief Howard Wolfson. Sources say that he has spoken to some candidates, but that no finalists have emerged. "Why -- do you know anyone?" responded Wolfson when asked if he is looking around. We don't.

Meanwhile, Clinton (D-N.Y.) jumped on the Down With Imus bandwagon in an e-letter to supporters, calling the shock jock's comments about the Rutgers women's basketball team "nothing more than small-minded bigotry and coarse sexism." She offered her backers the opportunity to write a note of support to the young women, whom Don Imus insulted in racially tinged terms. Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.), a fellow Democratic presidential candidate, called for Imus to be fired.

Clinton said on Tuesday that she has never appeared on Imus's morning show and never wanted to.

Who is surprised? Imus once referred to her as "that buck-toothed witch, Satan" and said she was "worse than" Osama bin Laden.

He did pull that last one back, adding, "Well, that's a little strong."

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