BANGOR, Maine — Maine’s two Republican senators weighed in Tuesday on the political flap over Sen. Harry Reid, calling his recently revealed comments about then-candidate Barack Obama unfortunate and insensitive.
But Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins did not echo the statements of some other GOP leaders who have been calling on Reid, D-Nev., to resign his position as Senate majority leader.
“That’s a decision for Senator Reid to make and for the members of the Democratic caucus that have elected him,” Snowe said.
Over the weekend, some Republicans including Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele went on the offensive against Reid over comments he made about President Obama during the 2008 campaign. In those comments, Reid apparently called Obama “light-skinned” and said he had “no Negro dialect.”
Steele and several high-ranking members of Congress have said Reid should resign or be removed from his position.
They also compared the situation to the controversy over Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss. who resigned in 2002 as Senate majority leader in the wake of comments he made during the 100th birthday celebration for the late Sen. Strom Thurmond, R-S.C. Lott had praised Thurmond’s presidential bid in 1948. Thurmond had run as a seg-regationist.
In a written statement, Collins said it was appropriate that Reid had apologized to the president. Obama accepted the apology and said the matter is closed in his eyes.
“The majority leader has acknowledged that his comments were unfortunate and racially insensitive,” Collins said. “The question of whether he should resign as Democratic leader of the Senate is up to the Democrats.”
Snowe, during an interview, called both Reid’s and Lott’s statements “regrettable” and “unfortunate.”
But Snowe said Reid and the Democrats should decide how to proceed. Congressional Democratic leaders as well as Timothy Kaine, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, have rebuffed calls for Reid to step down from his post.
“I think that is within their realm, in the context of the Democratic caucus and the Democratic leadership, to make that decision,” Snowe said.