WASHINGTON -- Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), the Louisiana House member in a tight race for the state’s Senate seat, found himself in a self-inflicted mess Tuesday morning when it surfaced that he had made comments comparing Congress to slavery.
Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), he said, according to a report published by E&E Daily, “runs the Senate like a plantation.”
"So instead of the world's greatest deliberative body, it is his personal, sort of, 'it goes if I say it does, if not it stops.' Senator Landrieu's first vote for him to be re-elected means that every other wish for a pro-oil and gas jobs bill is dead. Reid will never allow a pro-oil and gas jobs bill.”
The analogy, naturally, is fraught with awfulness. And one doesn’t need to search too far to understand how politically problematic it will be. Back in 2006, then Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) accused House Republican leadership of running their chamber like a plantation as well. Conservatives were aghast and critical. Democrats rushed to her defense. Eight years later, the sides have assumed opposite postures.
— Brian Walsh (@brianjameswalsh) September 9, 2014
But what may make Cassidy’s remark a bit different from Clinton's -- besides the racial histories of their respective states -- is that it’s not the first time he’s gone down that route. A Democratic source flagged a speech he gave in April 2012 in which he urged audience members not to kick him around like a slave while he was serving on the Hill.
“Now, I will finish up by saying this and then hopefully getting a couple of questions. I’m a U.S. Representative,” Cassidy said at the end of a discussion almost exclusively about health care reform. “I am so privileged to be that. Will Rogers said that your elected representative is nothing but the hired help. And I actually think that is the appropriate attitude. In our democracy, I am to represent. I am to be the hired help. Now, you don’t kick me around like a slave but on the other hand I am here to say that the greatest among us shall be our servants -- and I always tell my staff we want to be the greatest office there is."
For all the talk of Congress being a plantation and lawmakers being perceived as hired help -- or worse, slaves -- it’s a wonder that Cassidy is so keen on working there.
UPDATE: 3 p.m. -- Asked for his response on Tuesday, Reid said Cassidy's comments were "very insensitive" and called on the Louisiana Republican to apologize.
"That's really insensitive," Reid told reporters on Capitol Hill. "And if there was ever a statement that deserved an apology, this is it, big time. I mean, has he been taking lessons from Donald Sterling?"
Sabrina Siddiqui contributed reporting.