WASHINGTON -- Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) hammered Mitt Romney's charge that 47 percent of Americans pay no taxes and think they are victims, suggesting Romney himself might not have paid federal income taxes in some years and that he only wants to represent some of the country.
"This week we learned that Mitt Romney only wants to be president of half of the United States," Reid said on Wednesday. "He'll only worry about how the other half lives, I guess."
Romney's comments to wealthy donors back in May were aimed at explaining why many people won't vote for him, but they broadened into an indictment of the 47 percent of Americans who pay no federal income taxes -- although they do pay federal payroll and many other taxes.
"There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what," Romney said in the secretly recorded remarks. "There are 47 percent who are with [President Barack Obama], who are dependent on government, who believe that, that they are victims, who believe that government has the responsibility to care for them. Who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing."
"My job is not to worry about those people," he continued. "I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives."
Reid focused on the "those people" comment to revive his charge that Romney may not have paid any federal income taxes himself in some years. "Who are those Americans Mitt Romney disdains as 'victims' and 'those people'?" Reid asked. "They are not avoiding their tax bills using Cayman Islands tax shelters or Swiss banks."
Reid went on to say that many of the 47 percent are people looking for work because private equity companies like Romney's Bain Capital "closed their factory, shipped their jobs off to China." Others, Reid said, are veterans, seniors on Social Security, and families raising children with help from the earned income tax credit -- "a hand up Republicans once bragged about helping to enact."
Reid, and later Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), also challenged Romney to unveil the tax returns he has refused to disclose, beyond one estimated return and one nearly complete form from 2010.
"For all we know, Mitt Romney could be one of those who has paid no federal income tax," charged Reid in a renewal of his claim that Romney may have paid no tax in some years. "We'll never know since he refuses to release his tax returns for the years before he was running for president ... We can only imagine what new secrets would be revealed if he showed the American people a dozen years of tax returns, like his dad did."
Durbin piled on later, saying that the comments revealed Romney's true feelings about Americans and that they cast in a sharper light all the previous gaffes for which Romney has been dinged, including saying corporations are people, his wife drives two Cadillacs, he likes firing people, and he's not worried about the poor.
"Over the past 36 years, Willard Mitt Romney holds the distinction of all presidential candidates of either political party of having made the least disclosure of income tax returns ... one year," said Durbin. "There must be something in there he doesn't want America to see," Durbin said, adding that Romney clearly thinks the taxes that people pay are important.
"He judged 47 percent of the American people based on their income tax returns," Durbin said. "We should judge Mitt Romney based on his income tax returns -- or his refusal to disclose them."
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misidentified the state represented by Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin.