Opinion: Harry Reid gambles that his online poker bill can slip through with Obama’s controversial tax cut measure


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Wow, what are the odds of catching Nevada Sen. Harry Reid with a smile on?

About as good as anyone’s chances of winning big playing online poker.

The new 71-year-old Harry is happy because he won a fifth Senate term last month in his bid to outlast the late Robert Byrd and become the longest-serving member of Congress in American history.


That is scheduled to occur in about 29 years when Harry turns 100, barring an election defeat.

And the way the current leader of the slightly smaller Democratic Senate majority treats his major backers over the years, why even bother pondering a loss?

As part of his election celebration with Harrah’s and MGM et al, the Nevadan has a plan to legalize online poker, which he opposed before discovering how much he supports it.

Amazing how a successful campaign fundraising operation can alter a person’s thinking. Reid had the bill hastily drafted last weekend when he saw the opportunity opening.

You probably didn’t see anything developing. That’s the difference between five terms and 0 terms.

Here’s the deal: Harry wants to get this done during the current lame-duck session because....

...he’ll have fewer Democrats come January. And, hey, the only other things to be accomplished in the next two weeks are debt-spending resolutions and repeal of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ and passing the Dream Act and ratifying the START treaty and wrangling President Obama’s tax cut deal. The Republicans’ Mighty Mitch McConnell (see smiling photo, left) has successfully gotten congressional Democrats carping at Obama over giving the GOP an extension of all Bush tax cuts and a lower Social Security payroll tax and estate tax changes and business investment tax incentives in return for less than five dozen more weeks of unemployment insurance.

Such a deal, eh?

Well, truth is, as Obama reluctantly realized, it’s a better deal for him now than next month when the newly Republicanized House would vote to extend the tax cuts anyway and Obama wouldn’t get anything, including credit, for having to sign such a popular measure.

A new Gallup Poll out this morning finds the extensions of tax cuts and unemployment benefits are particularly popular among Americans, two out of three, in fact.

So, look at that: It seems the Republicans and Obama are together in sync with the American public. That must really annoy the other folks.

And since Obama wants this stealth stimulus plan so badly to possibly salvage his 2012 reelection, and since he pretty much left Harry and Nancy out of the December weekend deal-making, the Nevada senator figures to slip online poker into the much-coveted tax cut bill for a free ride during the ensuing hubub. Voila!

Will this Reid insert ignite more cramming in of pet projects that overload the bill with miscellaneous irrelevancies, stalling the all-important tax cut extension before the Jan. 1 deadline?

Republicans say online poker has zero chance.

But here’s the beauty in wily Harry’s cards: Even if he’s bluffing with this hand, the Nevadan can’t lose. Just attempting passage of online poker now earns him chips back home in Vegas, baby.

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--Andrew Malcolm

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