Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Friday suggested that labor unions critical of Obamacare should stop "frightening people" with their criticism of the law and how its implementation might hurt their members' insurance.
The Nevada Democrat also signaled his openness to employing the so-called nuclear option to change Senate rules to make it easier for President Obama's judicial nominees to be confirmed, at least in regard to appointments to the circuit court bench. Meanwhile, Reid indicated he would oppose any move to reduce the roles government-owned mortgage buyers Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac play in helping Americans finance home purchases, even in the face of support for doing so from Obama.
"I don't agree with the president," Reid told Nevada NPR station KNPR.
In the wide-ranging interview, Reid touted the benefits of Obama's health care overhaul and spoke on several other topics as he fielded questions from listeners who called in -- not all of whom were friendly. Reid conceded that the Affordable Care Act needs to be improved, but blamed the Republicans and their drive to repeal the statute for Congress' failure to fix the law's problems.
When the interviewer raised the concerns of a Nevada labor activist, who criticized Obamacare because he feared it would hurt union members' health insurance coverage, Reid had this to say: "He's exaggerating. ... I would recommend that he calm down and stop frightening people." However, Reid did appear to acknowledge that union members could lose access to some of their more generous health care policies, referred to as "Cadillac" plans.
In July, Reid threatened Senate Republicans with the nuclear option, so called because it would have broken Senate parliamentary rules, which require 67 votes to change a measure, to change the rules governing filibusters. Reid's plan would have removed the filibuster as an available option to block non-judicial, presidential nominees.
The majority leader probably would not have been able to round up enough Democratic votes to employ the nuclear option if his plan had included judicial nominees. However, Reid suggested Friday that excessive Republican filibusters of Obama's circuit court judge nominees could prompt him to re-up his nuclear option threat, and expand its scope.
As Roll Call's #WGDB Senate blog reported, a caller on the radio show asked Reid why there should be the ability to filibuster any business in the Senate. In his answer, Reid sought to separate nominations from legislative business. He suggested that further changes to curtail the ability of senators to stall Senate business might be inevitable.
"We've made some changes in nominations significantly. We have to be very careful how we handle the legislation," Reid said. "I think it helps the Senate to get things done if we have a little bit more than a majority. We don't want the House and the Senate to be exactly the same, but unless the -- these characters who are filibustering literally everything, unless they change, I think that that's where we're headed."