The DREAM Act which was passed late Wednesday evening by the House in the waning days of Democrat control there moved to the Senate Thursday where it immediately got bogged down.
Democrats had hoped to get an outright vote Thursday on the legislation that would provide a path to citizenship for some illegal immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children.
But they didn't have the votes to get past a threatened Republican filibuster which would have required 60 votes. So by a 59-40 vote, Democrats essentially punted until next week.
While it will be an uphill battle to get that vote since Republicans are maintaining party discipline, Democrats may get something of a moral victory out of all this.
They will be able to point to their votes on the legislation as they further burnish their attractiveness to Hispanic voters, an important and growing segment of the party's base.
Hispanic voters have tilted heavily Democratic in recent elections, reversing inroads made by former President Bush. The mostly partisan vote on the DREAM act will likely only deepen that trend.
The controversial legislation would allow young illegal immigrants brought into the U.S. as children under age 16 to apply for legal status, allowing those with military service or two years of higher education to get on the path to citizenship.
Opponents of the legislation decry it as an amnesty and warn that U.S. taxpayers will eventually wind up subsidizing the college educations and medical care of illegal immigrants.
Critics also say it will increase the competition unemployed citizens face at a time of economic uncertainty.
While many Senate Republicans are opposing the legislation on the merits, they have put Democrats on notice that they would filibuster all legislation until the Senate passes bills to extend the Bush-era tax cuts and fund the government's operations.
Again, Reid is expected to face difficulty finding the votes. But even a failed DREAM Act vote can be a political winner for Democrats.
Reid knows the power Hispanic voters intimately. Some experts believe he owes his recent re-election to Hispanic voters fired up by comments by and campaign ads for his opponent Sharron Angle that seemed to play on the fears of non-Hispanics about illegal immigrations and minorities generally.