Reid Says Republican Party Begat Trump and Should Reject Him

  • Democratic leader says Republicans set stage for Trump's rise
  • Ryan and McConnell need to reject extremist stances, Reid says

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid returns to the Senate chamber after talking to reporters at the U.S. Capitol on Dec. 15, 2015.

Photographer: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid ripped Republican leaders Thursday for setting the conditions for Donald Trump to thrive -- and called on them to reject him.

"The Republican Party has become without question the party of Trump," Reid said. House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell should now say "enough" and "do it now," the Nevada Democrat said.

Trump’s rise has unsettled many Republican leaders, particularly on Capitol Hill, who remain deeply leery of the real-estate billionaire’s potential for divisive and inflammatory statements. But they have been unable to unify behind an alternative, which has left many Republicans in Congress trying to distance themselves from Trump while saying they will support whoever wins the nomination.

Reid used his fiery speech at the Center for American Progress Action Fund in Washington to make the case that Republicans need to own up to their role in Trump’s success.

"If Senator McConnell wonders from where Donald Trump came from -- he should look in the mirror," said Reid.

Both Ways

Reid said that if McConnell disagrees with Trump’s "racist" statements, he should say so and reject him outright. The Nevada Democrat accused Republican leaders of wanting to have it both ways for too long.

Reid argued that Republicans, with seven years of obstructing President Barack Obama and refusing to reject the more extreme elements of their party, set the stage for Trump.

"Republican leaders created the drought conditions," he said. "Trump simply struck the match."

Reid said Republican leaders chose obstruction and "scorched-Earth" tactics even before Obama took office.

"What thrived in the wasteland Republican leaders created? Resentment, hatred," Reid said.

Pattern Continues

He said that pattern continues, as evidenced by the Republican treatment of Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland. Republican leaders have said they will not consider any nominee for the high court from Obama.

"That’s how they’ve treated him for his entire presidency," Reid said.

Republicans also have rejected science and other evidence that supported Democratic policies, such as on climate change and gun violence, he said.

"Even basic facts about the state of the economy," he said. "It’s no wonder Americans feel powerless."

Reid added that he believes this all helped to foster the rise of the Tea Party -- a wave he said is driven by "some of the darkest forces in our culture."

Birther Movement

And there have been other byproducts of Senate Republican actions, said Reid, that have helped kick off what he called "the Donald Trump movement."

Those included, he said, pushing the idea that Obama’s presidency was somehow illegitimate, including through the birther movement, which promoted the false story that Obama was born in Kenya.

"And who was the most prominent Republican in the birther movement? Yeah, Donald Trump," said Reid. "The Republican Party has become without question the party of Donald Trump."

"If McConnell and Ryan think that Donald Trump’s racist, xenophobic demagoguery is wrong, they should not support him -- period," Reid said. "If they refuse to revoke their support for Trump, they should both put on ‘Make America Great Again’ hats, and stand behind Trump at his next press conference."

But they haven’t rejected Trump, he said. "This is precisely the type of moral cowardice" that led to Trump’s rise, he added.

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