Did Harry Reid Try to Use Ted Kennedy’s Illness to Guilt-Trip GOP Senators?

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Harry Reid. Photo: Allison Shelley/Getty Images2012 Getty Images

In The New New Deal, his just-released book on the Obama stimulus plan, Time national correspondent Michael Grunwald writes that Harry Reid started to act a little desperate during his attempts to convince Republican senators to vote for 2009's American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. According to an anecdote recounted to Grunwald by Chuck Grassley (and helpfully cherry-picked by the Daily Caller), Reid invited the Iowa senator — along with fellow GOP elder statesmen Thad Cochran of Mississippi and Mike Enzi of Wyoming — to his office to "plead" for votes: "[Reid] said: 'You all know something needs to be done. The Democrats did TARP for Bush. You’ve got to look past the substance.'"

As Grassley remembers it, the Republicans rejected that line of reasoning, leading Reid to invoke the name of Ted Kennedy, who was battling brain cancer at the time: "He said if you can’t vote with us, we’re going to have to bring Kennedy to the floor, and it really could kill him. We looked at each other like: Huh?" Reid then apparently asked the assembled Republican coterie — and later, Orrin Hatch of Utah — if one of them would be willing to vote on Kennedy's behalf due to his illness, a tradition of cross-party favors known as vote pairing. A Reid aide told Grunwald what happened then:

They all said: "Sorry, we have to be voting no on this." These are people who profess to care about the man and the institution and all that. But he's on his deathbed, and they wouldn't pair their votes.

Ultimately, the Recovery Act was passed with the help of Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, who switched his party affiliation to Democrat after receiving assurances from Harry Reid that he could retain his seniority, though he would later accuse Reid of "double crossing" him. Whatever works, we guess.