Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has now spoken out on the Muslim community center in New York — saying that while the organizers are free to construct the project, it should be moved somewhere else.
“The First Amendment protects freedom of religion. Senator Reid respects that but thinks that the mosque should be built some place else,” said a statement from Reid spokesman Jim Manley. “If the Republicans are being sincere, they would help us pass this long overdue bill to help the first responders whose health and livelihoods have been devastated because of their bravery on 911, rather than continuing to block this much-needed legislation.”
Reid’s statement comes after President Obama’s comments over the weekend defending the right of Muslims to build the center near Ground Zero, which Republicans immediately pounced upon. Earlier today, Reid’s GOP opponent Sharron Angle came out with a statement attacking Obama, and calling upon Reid to speak up: “As the Majority Leader, Harry Reid is usually President Obama’s mouthpiece in the U.S. Senate, and yet he remains silent on this issue. Reid has a responsibility to stand up and say no to the mosque at Ground Zero or once again side with President Obama—this time against the families of 9/11 victims. America is waiting.”
[TPM SLIDESHOW: Welcome To The Neighborhood? A Look At The Area Around The ‘Ground Zero Mosque’]On the Sunday talk shows over the weekend, various Democratic leaders such as DNC Chairman Tim Kaine and DCCC Chairman Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) endorsed Obama’s remarks in support of the Muslim center’s right to build, and did not oppose the project. But Reid is taking a different tack by affirming the right to build it, while also opposing the project itself.
On the bright side, Reid’s discussion of the relevance of the free exercise of religion isn’tÂ nearly as dismissive as House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA), who said last week: “Everybody knows America’s built on the rights of free expression, the rights to practice your faith, but come on.”
The TPM Poll Average currently puts Reid ahead of Sharron Angle by 45.7%-42.6%.
Late Update: Predictably, Reid’s position hasn’t won him any praise from Team Angle. As CNN reports, an Angle spokesman responded: “he must be really scared to be re-elected if he broke from the president after being his waterboy.”
Late Late Update: National Republican Senatorial Committee spokesman Brian Walsh issued this statement: “While it’s commendable that Senator Reid now agrees with Republican Sharron Angle that we should respect the wishes of 9/11 families, it’s regrettable that he hasn’t demonstrated this same independence from President Obama on the critical issues facing America during the last 19 months. Whether it was his backroom deal-making during the health care debate or his decision to ram the stimulus boondoggle into law, Harry Reid has consistently stood up for the liberal elite’s agenda in Washington instead of for taxpayers in Nevada. Under his watch as the Democrat Senate Leader, Nevada’s unemployment has skyrocketed to 14.2 percent, while families and small businesses face the prospect of the largest tax increase in American history at the end of the year. It’s clear that Harry Reid recognizes the desperate political straits he’s facing with the election less than 90 days away, but his positioning on this issue fools no one.”