Harry Reid Wanted to Repeal Birthright Citizenship in 1993, But That’s Not the Full Story

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Photo: Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

At first, it seemed like Harry Reid's memory of 1993 must have been little fuzzy. Was My So-Called Life on yet? Where did he put his Discman? Which was why conservative pundits gleefully pored over the news that the Washington Times unearthed a 1993 bill, introduced by Reid, that called for the repeal of birthright citizenship. Tsk, tsk, they chided Reid for telling voters Tuesday, "I don't know how anyone of Hispanic heritage could be a Republican," an allusion to the recent right-wing momentum to reconsider birthright citizenship.

Did Reid introduce a bill that called for radically revising the birthright citizenship clause? Yes. Here's the text, from "SEC. 1001. BASIS OF CITIZENSHIP CLARIFIED" [emphasis ours]:


In the exercise of its powers under section 5 of the Fourteenth Article of Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, the Congress has determined and hereby declares that any person born after the date of enactment of this title to a mother who is neither a citizen of the United States nor admitted to the United States as a lawful permanent resident, and which person is a national or citizen of another country of which either of his or her natural parents is a national or citizen, or is entitled upon application to become a national or citizen of such country, shall be considered as born subject to the jurisdiction of that foreign country and not subject to the jurisdiction of the United States within the meaning of section 1 of such Article and shall therefore not be a citizen of the United States or of any State solely by reason of physical presence within the United States at the moment of birth.

But, as Greg Sargent points out in the Washington Post, he also apologized very publicly for it on the Senate floor in 2006 (full text here):


"That is a low point of my legislative career, the low point of my governmental career," Reid said. He went on to tell the assembled Senators that his wife had chastized him for the move. "She, in effect, said: I can't believe that you have done it," Reid recounted. "But I had done it." Reid's apology delivered in "a near whisper as many Senators looked on in amazement," according to one news account at the time.

Thirteen years passed between Reid's proposed bill and that apology, which makes it easier to read in a cynical light, especially considering his aggressive campaign to woo Hispanic voters. Sargent adds that Reid recanted, while Lindsey Graham and the like pursue that same policy even today. Either way, this leaves voters with a choice between a man who took thirteen years to admit he was wrong or a woman in a losing battle with logic.

1993 flip-flop: Sen. Reid introduced bill 'clarifying' birthright citizenship [Washington Times via Hot Air]
Yes, Reid tried to end birthright citizenship -- but he apologized profusely for it [Plum Line/WP]
Beyond the gaffes, candidates diverge in wooing Nevada's Hispanic vote [Fix/WP]