Something tells me that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid didn’t like my recent column on Rep. Joe Heck and immigration.
Maybe it was when he told me reading it made him want to vomit. Or that I might need an assistant to help me do better research. Or that I was going along “with this asinine editorial policy in the Review-Journal.”
Ouch, senator. That last one was below the belt!
A quick refresher: After Democrats and labor unions called on Heck to do more to get comprehensive immigration reform passed, I wrote a piece saying Heck wasn’t the problem in passing a bill. The Republican congressman has said he favors a pathway to citizenship — the heart of the Senate-passed bill on the topic — and he’s called out his own House leadership for failing to bring the issue up for a vote this year.
What more could Heck do, I asked, which sickened poor Harry Reid.
What more indeed, Reid replied in an interview Monday in his Las Vegas office. “What he has done on immigration is absolutely hypocrisy,” Reid said. “Here is a man who has voted for the [U.S. Rep. Steve] Stephen King [R-Ohio] amendment to get away with the DREAM Act. All the benefits that the president did with deferred action, he [Heck] voted to get rid of all of it. And you write that he’s such a great guy on immigration. I don’t know what your deal is there, Steve.”
In June, the House (including Heck) voted for an amendment to a Homeland Security funding bill that would have ended President Barack Obama’s executive order to put a low priority on deporting so-called DREAMers, those children who were brought to the United States illegally by their parents, but who have led productive, crime-free lives since. King argued at the time that his amendment was necessary to keep the administration from usurping congressional authority to set immigration policy.
“You have almost a million people in America, thousands of them here in Nevada, one of the best things that ever happened to them, if not the best thing in their lives, is the country, the only country they know, they can stay here,” Reid said of Obama’s deferred action program. “And he [Heck] votes to do away with that, and you [Sebelius] say ‘what more could he do?’ If I were Hispanic, I’d be looking for him [Heck] night and day.”
I pressed Reid, asking what a sophomore member of Congress who’s not in leadership could really do to get legislation to the floor. “It doesn’t seal your mouth,” Reid said. “You can offer amendments, you can do all kinds of things. Speak out against that nonsense that’s going on there, instead of voting with them. I think there’s a huge amount that somebody can do in the House in the minority, not just go along, which he [Heck] does.”
I also asked him about Heck’s objection to the Senate-passed comprehensive immigration reform, the fact that Homeland Security can waive border security standards a decade hence while allowing immigrants in the country illegally to continue on their pathway to citizenship. Reid ticked off the stepped-up border security initiatives under way now to dismiss Heck’s concern. “That’s a first-class cop-out,” Reid said. “It appears to me that he’s [Heck] trying to be able to protect himself from doing anything.”
Heck met recently with immigration advocates to talk about his own DREAM Act bill, and he’s talked about the issue at town halls, where (irony alert!) he’s been criticized by conservative members of his own party for being too liberal on immigration reform. I guess they’d be surprised to hear Reid slam Heck thus: “He’s a tea party guy; he votes with them all the time.”
Really, I asked? Reid was unremitting: “How do they judge me?” he said. “They judge me on how I vote. I judge him on how he votes. That’s why I’m very disappointed in him, as I’ve indicated to you.”
Steve Sebelius is a Review-Journal political columnist and author of the blog SlashPolitics.com. Follow him on Twitter (@SteveSebelius) or reach him at 702-387-5276 or firstname.lastname@example.org.