Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid on Tuesday sought to transform Donald Trump's widely condemned remarks about Sen. John McCain's capture in Vietnam into a political weapon against the GOP field on immigration policy.
Reid, speaking on the Senate floor, noted GOP candidates' criticism of Trump's recent claim that McCain—who spent five years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam—isn't a war hero. But then he segued into Trump's claim in his announcement speech that Mexican immigrants are "rapists."
"It makes me wonder, where were all these same Republicans when Trump slandered millions?" Reid asked. "When Trump insulted the senator from Arizona, a member of his own party, Republicans couldn't denounce him fast enough, but when Trump called immigrants rapists, there was nothing but silence."
(In fact, multiple GOP presidential candidates condemned Trump's comments about Mexican immigrants.)
Reid then added: "There is an ugly truth behind that silence, and it is this: When it comes to immigration and frankly most other policy, there is no meaningful difference between the Republican Party and Donald Trump."
The comments show Reid trying to exploit Republicans' weakness among Latino voters, a political problem for the party heading into the 2016 elections. Obama won roughly 70 percent of the Latino vote in 2012.
Reid listed various GOP candidates in the crowded field who do not support a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
Reid noted Jeb Bush's comments that undocumented workers should be able to earn legal status but "not necessarily citizenship" and cited Scott Walker's remark that if somebody wants to become a citizen, they first "need to go back to their country of origin."
Reid also listed examples of the GOP field's opposition to President Obama's executive actions on immigration. He said that "there is no daylight between Donald Trump and the rest of the Republican field."
"So while the rest of the Republican presidential hopefuls may not engage in the same repugnant rhetoric, make no mistake they are all on the same page with Donald Trump," Reid said.
Reid joined in the attack on Trump's comments about McCain, calling his longtime Capitol Hill colleague a hero and saying he has "great admiration" for the Arizona Republican.
This article is from the archive of our partner National Journal.