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Reid praises progressives at Netroots convention

From Kevin Bohn, CNN
  • The Senate Majority Leader acknowledges the differences between himself and activists
  • But he says they represent the voice of "real Americans"
  • He credits progressives for building support for key initiatives

Las Vegas, Nevada (CNN) -- Acknowledging that he and they don't always see eye to eye, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) on Saturday praised the influence of progressive activists gathered at the annual Netroots Nation convention.

Speaking to a large ballroom filled with bloggers and others in the movement, Reid said they help represent the voice of "real Americans."

"I admire how you pursue the truth as relentlessly as you reveal hypocrisy," he said. "You shine much-needed light on fear tactics and misinformation. I am calling you to keep calling them out."

But Reid, who has not always pushed agenda items as liberal as progressives would like on such issues as health care reform, acknowledged their past differences.

"I know that there are times I am told that I get on your nerves," Reid said to some laughter in the room. "And I am here to tell you ... you get on my nerves sometimes."

While sometimes critical of him for how he has pursued different policy objectives, Reid gave progressives credit for helping build support for some of the key initiatives passed.

"There is no doubt in mind that we will not have accomplished all that we have in this Congress without your efforts to explain the facts about what we are doing, to expose the truth about what the other side is doing," he said.

He addressed specifically the lack of a public option or government-run insurance option not included in the health care overhaul.

"Now I know you wish some of these reforms were even more sweeping and believe me I do, too," he said. "But we also have to be realists. I wish we had a public option. But we are going to have a public option. It is just a question of when."

Some progressive activists have questioned why the Senate wasn't able to do more since Democrats had a supermajority of 60 votes, the number required to defeat Republican filibuster attempts. He answered those critics saying they did not have that threshold as long as some believed citing the dispute over Al Franken's win in Minnesota and Ted Kennedy's illness.

"Sixty votes was a fleeting time" in our nation's history, but "we did a lot," Reid told them.

And Reid even gave a nod to his colleagues on the other side of the aisle -- despite appearing before a gathering of such left-leaning Democrats.

"Don't bad mouth all Republicans," he said.

He specifically mentioned two moderate Republican senators who have voted with Democrats on several key issues: Maine Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins -- to which some of the audience applauded.

"I just hope I don't get them into trouble by saying something nice to them here," Reid said.

Reid also defended his efforts at trying to pass an energy bill. He is expected to introduce a streamlined bill early next week that will not include efforts at curbing greenhouse gas emissions but will deal with conservation and will also have provisions relating to the Gulf Coast oil spill.

"We aren't going to do nothing because we don't have a partner on the other side," he said. "This debate won't end here ... it will just be the beginning."