What immigration reform?

On Saturday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid stole the show at a downtown Las Vegas rally demanding a “path to citizenship” — amnesty — for illegal immigrants. He told the few thousand people in attendance that allowing millions of illegals to remain in the country and gain citizenship would be the top priority of Congress beginning this week.

“We’re going to have comprehensive immigration reform now,” Sen. Reid said. “We’re going to do immigration reform just like we did health care reform.”

Reform Immigration for America, the group behind the Las Vegas rally and others around the country, made the senator’s remarks the banner headline on its Web site. Its leaders declared Sen. Reid’s promise a major victory.

So imagine their surprise Tuesday night when Sen. Reid emerged from a private luncheon with fellow Democratic senators and said immigration reform was not, in fact, on the front burner. It wasn’t on the kitchen counter at all.

It turns out the Obama administration and Sen. Reid’s caucus have no interest in taking on an issue as politically poisonous as their health care takeover. With new financial regulations in the works, a forthcoming Supreme Court nomination and a debt-funded budget to pass, the Senate probably won’t touch illegal immigration this year, let alone this week.

“Aides to Mr. Reid said he never meant to imply that he was going ahead immediately,” reports New York Times blogger Carl Hulse.

Words, you see, mean precisely what the senator wants them to mean at any given time. Which is to say they can mean something else entirely the next day.

“The question for Mr. Reid now,” Mr. Hulse writes, “is whether in trying to rally Latino supporters back home, he will face a backlash for raising expectations.”

After all, if Sen. Reid’s most loyal supporters can’t take him at his word, why would anyone vote for him?

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