Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) declined Tuesday to push for the resignation of Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).
"I think that is an issue for the Democratic conference," McConnell said at a press conference, repeating himself twice when pressed. "Who is going to be the Democratic leader of the Senate is up to the Democratic conference."
Reid has taken heat for his quotes in a new book about the 2008 presidential campaign in which he said that it was to then-candidate Barack Obama's advantage that he was "light-skinned" and "with no Negro dialect."
It's telling that McConnell isn't throwing the comments in Reid's face. So far, the most prominent Republicans to call for Reid to step down are Sen. John Cornyn, responsible for fundraising as the head of the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, and Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele, whose primary responsibility is banking money for the GOP.
Steele, himself, has had trouble keeping his foot out of his mouth, and McConnell advised the party chairman to stay focused on Republican causes.
"The chairman of the Republican National Committee, whether it's this one or any other chairman we've ever had or will have, will be measured in two ways: number one, how much money did you raise, and number two, how many elections did you win? And that standard will be applied to this chairman as it has to others," McConnell said.
Steele has tried to link Reid's comments with the ouster of Republican leader Trent Lott, who said in 2002 that the United States would be better off if avowed segregationist Strom Thurmond had become president in 1948.
But even Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), who now holds Lott's old seat, tried to shift the focus at Tuesday's press conference to Democratic positions on Afghanistan and health care.
"There is a particular interest in our state because of what Senator Lott went through," Wicker conceded, but he said Reid's leadership shouldn't hinge on the opinions of fellow politicos. "I think the decision with regard to Senator Reid will be made by the voters of Nevada," he said.
How will Trump’s administration impact you? Learn more