The Stump

Sen. Harry Reid's Gay Rights, Immigration Boomerang?

Sen. Harry Reid walks

Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) walks to the Senate chamber before a vote on the defense authorization bill.   Alex Brandon/Associated Press hide caption

itoggle caption Alex Brandon/Associated Press

If Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's move to have the Senate vote on gay rights and immigration legislation was meant to energize the Democratic base before the election, it may have boomeranged.

Under the unequivocal headline "Harry Reid's Botched Battles" Politico reports that the very voters Reid meant to fire up by tacking on to a defense authorization bill controversial gay rights and immigration legislation have been disappointed by Reid's failure to get enough votes.

As has been widely reported, the Senate failed to pass a repeal of the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," ban on gays and lesbians openly serving in uniform and the DREAM Act that would permit young illegal immigrants to gain legal status by attending college or through military service.

The suggestion is that instead of revving up the troops for the coming mid-term election, the failure may just have just further dispirited Democrats. A Politico excerpt:

The disappointment was widespread.

Gay rights groups were upset that the process Reid employed may have undermined progress in repealing the Pentagon’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy prohibiting gays from serving openly in the military.

Hispanic groups were disappointed that they couldn’t even get a vote on a narrow piece of comprehensive immigration reform — an amendment known as the DREAM Act that would have enabled citizenship for illegal immigrant students in exchange for government or military service.

And Democrats on both sides of the Capitol are unhappy that a debate on gay rights and immigration distracted yet again from issue No. 1: jobs.

Later in the story, a House Democratic aide suggests that Reid's maneuver was really an example of how all politics is local, that Reid was focused mostly on his own re-election in Nevada which is anything but assured.

The most recent polls, for instance, have shown Reid tied in his race against Republican Sharron Angle who is strongly supported by the Tea Party movement.

Thus, Reid's inclusion of a repeal of DADT as well as the DREAM Act can readily be interpreted as a move to rally Hispanic voters and to a lesser degree, gay and lesbian citizens, to his cause, i.e., his re-election.

But befitting a senator who represents a state with big gambling interests, the move was something of a risky bet by Reid too since he could just as easily cause his opponents to become even more energized in their effort to oust him.

In a race as close as the Nevada Senate contest now appears to be, the turnout of a hundred more anti-Reid voters could easily spell defeat for the Senate majority leader.

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