Unlike in Canada, where we already know the Senate is set to debate the C-290 sports betting legislation on Tuesday, the online poker bill co-authored by US Senate majority leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) might as well be known as the Ninja Bill, in that it lies lurking in the legislative shadows, waiting for a moment when senators are distracted so it can strike without warning and be gone again before anyone realizes what they’ve voted for. (And to think the US routinely lectures developing nations on the need for transparency and openness in their political systems.) Ain’t democracy grand?
Not according to Sen. Jim Demint (R-SC), who is warning his constituents of the dangers the lame duck session of Congress poses to democracy. Demint’s office issued a report titled “No Lame Deal in the Lame Duck” that recounts the lack of oversight that accompanies the frenzied weeks between election day and the end of the year, which allows all manner of unsavory legislation to escape the traditional checks and balances. “No tough decisions, smoke and mirrors, all passed in the dark of night up against an engineered deadline panic.”
Demint lists 15 toxic items on this year’s lame duck wish list, including online gambling, which the report describes as “an enormous boom for the state of Nevada, allowing it to effectively regulate the internet poker industry and to profit by collecting a federal government-imposed poker activity fee.” Demint’s anti-gambling bent predates Reid’s latest gambit. In 2003, as a member of the House of Representatives, Demint voted for the bill that eventually morphed into the UIGEA. Demint is a noted nutter on social issues, having stated during his 2004 Senate bid that he didn’t believe gays or pregnant single women should be allowed to be schoolteachers.
On Saturday, The Hill published an article that questioned whether GOP politicians would be able to forgive or forget Reid’s hyper-partisan attacks on Mitt Romney during the presidential campaign. Former GOP Senate and House leadership aide Ron Bonjean said the animosity directed Reid’s way “is likely to produce the same type of gridlock” that has paralyzed the current Congress. GOP strategist Ford O’Connell went further, saying “somewhere down the line Republicans may pick a time to get even” with Reid.
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) gave Reid a broadside earlier this week by saying the Senate majority leader “has abused the power of the majority in the Senate to a degree [that has] never, ever been done before.” Referring to the ongoing negotiations to pass legislation to resolve America’s looming ‘fiscal cliff,’ Sessions said such bills “should be voted on in the Senate regularly, debated and discussed.”
A racing industry official with close ties to lobbyists told the Daily Racing Form that it was unlikely Reid would attach his poker legislation to a spending or tax bill, as the negotiations surrounding those fiscal cliff bills are supposed to be ‘clean,’ i.e. no quid pro quo winks and nods between pork-hungry or agenda-driven legislators. However, National Thoroughbred Racing Association president Alex Waldrop suggested Reid’s poker plan could indeed attach itself remora-like to such a bill. “I’ve heard it both ways.” Join the crowd. Bottom line, the only person who knows when Reid’s ninja will strike continues to be Reid himself. And he ain’t talking.