On Saturday morning, the Senate failed to advance the DREAM Act (H.R. 5281) on a vote of 55-41. Sixty votes were needed to move the bill forward procedurally and stop any filibuster. With that loss, the fight for the DREAM Act is over, at least for this Congress. Below is a summary of Greg Chen’s report of this vote.
The vote tally in support of DREAM included three Republicans who crossed the aisle to join 50 Democrats and 2 Independents. Those three Rs were: Richard Lugar (IN) and Robert Bennett (UT) who had come out in support long ago and Lisa Murkowski (AK) who started signaling this week that she would vote “yes”. With their yes votes, DREAM maintained its status as a bi-partisan bill dating back nine years to when it was first introduced with seven Republican co-sponsors. Today, long-time DREAM champion Orrin Hatch (R-UT) failed even to show for the bill he originally sponsored in August 2001.
Unfortunately the gain of three Republicans today was not enough to make up the difference. Combined there are 58 Democrats and Independents in the Senate, and there are 42 Republicans. If all the Ds and Is voted in favor, only two Rs would have been needed to reach 60. But today 5 Democrats voted against DREAM: Baucus (MT); Hagan (NC); Nelson (NE); Pryor (AR); and Tester (MT). And one Democrat, newly elected Joe Manchin (WV) failed to show. To win on “cloture” 60 votes were needed no matter how many actually voted. Thus, a no-show counted as a “no” vote.
As the 111th Congress comes to its sputtering halt, at least on immigration, the question many are asking is whether there will be a real opportunity to bring up DREAM in the 112th. Looking forward, we face at least two enormous legislative challenges: First, the House will shift to Republican control with 242 Rs and 193 Ds. Last week the House passed DREAM on a 218-198 vote—you can bet your house we won’t muster a strong showing like that, let alone a majority, when the new session starts. Second, in the Senate, the Democrats will still have the majority but their margin of control will be 53-47 so getting the “yes” votes will also be harder in that chamber.
For many of us the source of continued inspiration has been to see all the DREAM activists walking the halls of the capitol and showing tremendous courage when they are the ones who have everything at risk. Let’s keep a positive spirit for the future as the fight is not over yet.