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Harry Reid: GOP leaders are responsible for Trump’s rise

Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) center, joined by, from left, Sens. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), and Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), talks to reporters on Capitol Hill on March 1. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)
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Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) on Thursday delivered a fierce rebuke of the Republican Party and its top leaders, who he argues paved the way for the rise of presidential front-runner Donald Trump.

GOP voters’ embrace of Trump, Reid said in the speech delivered at the Center for American Progress, is a direct and predictable consequence of Republican strategies dating back to the beginning of President Obama’s term.

“The Republican establishment acts bewildered,” Reid said. “But they should not be bewildered. As much as they may try to distance themselves from Trump now, Republican leaders are responsible for his rise.”

“Republican leaders created the drought conditions; Donald Trump has simply struck the match,” he added.

The roots of Trump’s rise, he said, can be found in the GOP determination to block Obama’s legislative agenda, starting with health-care reform but extending to financial reforms, the post-2008-crash stimulus, middle-class tax cuts and more.

“Many of these ideas originated with Republicans and nearly all of them had previously enjoyed bipartisan support,” Reid said. “Yet one by one, they were rejected by Republican leaders who repeated the big lie: ‘If Obama supports it, it won’t help you.’ … On issue after issue, Republican leaders faced a choice: Help their constituents put food on the table, literally, or stick it to President Obama. Time after time, Republicans chose to stick it to President Obama instead of helping their own constituents.”

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He added: “Republicans spent eight years torching the institutions Americans once relied on to help them face the challenges of their daily lives. Instead of engaging on policy, Republicans simply told Americans there was nothing to be done. So what thrived in the wasteland Republican leaders created? Resentment, hatred — which Republican leaders were all too eager to embrace and too cowardly to renounce.”

Reid in his speech singled out Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) for leading the Republican intransigence, citing his widely reported strategy of denying Obama any GOP support in implementing his congressional agenda.

“The only possible message such unprecedented and blind opposition could send is that this president and his ideas are illegitimate,” Reid said. “Indeed, Sen. McConnell’s blind rejection of any policy proposed by President Obama, regardless of the merits, is the kinder, gentler version of birtherism.

“Donald Trump’s style of no-holds-barred politics was forged in the Senate Republican caucus,” he continued. “If Sen. McConnell wonders from where Donald Trump came, he should take a look in the mirror. No one is working harder to support Trump than Mitch McConnell.”

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McConnell spokesman Don Stewart noted that independent fact-checkers have previously rejected Reid’s claims of GOP intransigence and said the GOP-controlled Senate has passed several major pieces of legislation.

Stewart declined to address Reid’s main argument — that the GOP’s determination to fight Obama on all fronts paved the way for Trump’s rise. McConnell, he said, “has stayed out of the primary debate. But I can say that speeches like this are what keep fact checkers in business.”

Reid called on both McConnell and House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) to “withdraw their support of Donald Trump, and do it now.”

“For too long, Senator McConnell and Speaker Ryan have tried to have it both ways, giving Trump occasionally a slap on the wrist each time he says something detestable, but always committing to support him at the end of the day. This is precisely the kind of moral cowardice that enabled the rise of Trump,” Reid said.

“After years of refusing to denounce birtherism, McConnell and Ryan are now supporting the most prominent birther in the nation,” he continued. “Why are they waiting to withdraw their support? What more do they need to see? … There is no gray area here. It is time for Sen. McConnell and Speaker Ryan to find the backbone to say: ‘Enough, Trump, enough.’ “