Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid joined four other Senate Democrats in voting against expanding gun background checks Wednesday, defeating the Manchin-Toomey amendment.
But the left has already given him a pass. And it’s not exactly clear how the National Rifle Association is going to react either.
Liberals are already pouncing on the four other Democrats: Sens. Max Baucus, Mark Begich, Heidi Heitkamp and Mark Pryor.
“Four Democrats just voted against universal background checks for gun purchases because they’re scared of the NRA,” the liberal California-based Courage Campaign warned its supporters while calling for Democrats to cut off campaign funding to those lawmakers.
And the LA Times reported Thursday that President Obama’s Organizing for Action group will begin a campaign against every lawmaker that voted “no” on the amendment, including the four Democrats.
But as the fifth Democrat to reject Manchin-Toomey, Reid has wielded a convenient get-out-of-jail-free-card: His “no” vote was merely “procedural.”
“Meet the 45 Senators Who Blocked Background Checks” declared a Wednesday evening headline by Mother Jones, leaving Senator Number 46 unscathed. “Reid was a special case,” the liberal website says.
“[Reid v]oted ‘no’ as a procedural move to preserve [the] option to reintroduce the bill,” the site explains.
“Reid did vote no on the background check vote to preserve his right as majority leader to bring it up again,” agreed a Senate GOP aide in an email to The Daily Caller Thursday. “Majority leaders do this all the time on bills they want to try to advance again.”
And Reid himself addressed the question on Facebook Wednesday afternoon.
“Many of you have inquired as to why I voted against the Manchin-Toomey background checks legislation, even though I fully support it.” Reid wrote. “Good question. I voted no for procedural reasons so that I can retain the right to bring it up for a vote in the near future.”
But that may not be the only benefit Reid derived from voting against the amendment.
The NRA announced last week Wednesday — a solid week before the Manchin-Toomey vote — that a vote in favor of the amendment would hurt lawmakers on the group’s influential scorecard.
So will Reid’s “no” vote be rewarded by the NRA, despite the “procedural” caveat?
The NRA won’t say, despite the senator’s longtime “B” rating from the group. Multiple requests for comment from The Daily Caller went unanswered Thursday.
Meanwhile, Reid’s office is unclear on how the NRA will score the vote.
Reached by email Thursday afternoon, a spokesman for Reid told TheDC he had “no clue” whether the NRA would reward the senator, but did not answer when asked whether Reid was concerned about the score.
Washington observers have long considered Reid among the nation’s most skillful politicians, capable of deftly navigating tricky political waters toward long-term gains.
Journalist Jon Ralston, once called “the top political reporter and analyst in Nevada” by The Washington Post, says he’d be surprised if the NRA rewards Reid’s “no” vote, but warned not to underestimate the majority leader.
“I believe that if anyone could be cunning enough to be against the NRA and still find a way to get a positive NRA score, it would be Harry Reid,” Ralston told TheDC on Thursday. “But I don’t think that’s what happened here, and I’d be surprised if the NRA would score him as a NO.”