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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Reid getting hit it from all sides

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid hoped the defense policy bill would help make a final pre-election argument for Democrats while energizing the base on gay rights and immigration.

But what he got was a failed vote and a mix of frustration and disappointment from the people he was trying to help. The stalled defense authorization bill — one of the last major Senate votes before November’s elections — was emblematic of the Nevada senator’s struggles to cut deals with the GOP while still pleasing core Democratic constituencies. 

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.

“The issue for me has always been jobs,” said Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.). “That’s the issue. How do we put people back to work?”

Republicans, outside groups and even some Democrats saw a more personal motive for Reid, suggesting that he was merely looking out for his own troubled reelection interests by forcing votes that were certain to be defeated. Critics said he was trying to energize Hispanics and gays — but quickly deflect and blame Republicans for the filibuster that stalled the defense bill.

“This is about Reid’s reelect,” said a senior House Democratic aide. “Anything that isn’t focused on jobs right now is unhelpful to the House.”  (Continues here)

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