US Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has once again fingered Senate Republicans as the key obstacle holding up passage of the online poker bill Reid co-authored with Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ). As first reported by Street Insider and confirmed via C-SPAN footage, Reid held a media scrum on Tuesday at which he reiterated his belief that the bill needed the support of “15-17” GOP senators to ensure passage, but “at this stage, we’ve got none.”
The Las Vegas Review-Journal quoted Reid’s Nevada counterpart, Sen. Dean Heller, trying to make light of Reid’s rant, saying that was Reid’s “answer to everything – blame Republicans.” Heller claimed he was “beating the bushes” to drum up GOP support and cited a meeting with Sen. John Boozman (R-AR) scheduled for Wednesday, but Heller admitted garnering the number of votes Reid is seeking was “going to be tough.” The Las Vegas Sun reported Heller saying online poker was “an issue that’s on the front burner” for himself, Reid and Kyl. “The front burner for everybody else is this rules package and the fiscal cliff… it’s just hard getting it to the forefront so that we can make it an issue and get it moving.”
Reid’s congressional woes aren’t limited to his poker pet project. On Monday, a ‘sportsmen’ bill to improve wildlife habitat that was thought to have bipartisan support came up 10 votes shy of the necessary 60. Just one Republican – Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) – voted with the Dems to waive the budget point of order that would have allowed the bill to progress with a simple majority. Reportedly, the bill’s call for a $10 increase in the price of duck stamps that hunters are required to purchase to finance wetlands conversation prompted the GOP’s “no new taxes/spending” faction to withhold its support.
As the ‘fiscal cliff’ negotiations proceed, certain prominent GOP congressional figures, including Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) plus House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) and Rep. Peter King (R-NY), have indicated they might be open to new ‘revenues’ as part of a brokered deal. But many Republicans are skittish about voting for anything that even resembles higher taxes due to their signatures appearing on the Taxpayer Protection Pledge written by Americans for Tax Reform (ATR). On Monday, ATR leader Grover Norquist said his group would hold GOP lawmakers’ feet to the fire by reminding voters in their home states “who has kept their commitment and who hasn’t.”
The Reid/Kyl bill did pick up some support on Monday from the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), which made public a letter sent to Reid and House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) calling for lawmakers to “modernize” the Wire Act, i.e. walking back the late 2011 Department of Justice legal opinion that the Act applied only to online sports betting. In March, the FOP issued a similar letter warning about the dangers of the states beating the feds to the legislative punch, in that some states are far more interested in offering a more comprehensive online gambling menu than their poker-only federal counterparts. The latest FOP call to action is more of the same, i.e. less about legalizing online poker than it is about providing law enforcement “with an improved and clear framework” for combating the alleged scourge of money laundering that online gaming supposedly enables. What’s that line about how to a man who only has a set of handcuffs, everyone looks like a criminal?