Senate to Vote on DREAM Act Before Election

In a marked departure from the Democrats' immigration reform strategy, Reid says he will try to pass the bill on its own.

By Julianne Hing Sep 14, 2010

Nevada Sen. Harry Reid announced Tuesday afternoon that he really will be moving on the DREAM Act. Rumors have been floating around in not-so-hushed whispers that Reid, who’s deadlocked in a tough election battle back home against Tea Party Republican Sharron Angle, planned to make a bold move on the bill sometime soon.

Politico‘s Carrie Budoff Brown reports that Reid will attach the bill as an amendment in the defense authorization bill. The announcement marks a significant public shift in strategy from the Democrats on immigration; as recently as the summer recess, congressional leaders had urged DREAM Act activists to wait until comprehensive immigration reform became a viable option to pass the bill.

The DREAM Act would allow hundreds of thousands of undocumented youth with clean criminal records to adjust their immigration statuses if they committed themselves to two years in the military or college.

Reid acknowledged what many have known for a while: comprehensive immigration reform is dead. "I think it is really important that we move forward on this legislation," Reid said. "I know we can’t do comprehensive immigration reform. I’ve tried to, I’ve tried so very, very hard. I’ve tried different iterations of this, but those Republicans we had in the last Congress left us."

DREAM Act activists have waged an aggressive and public battle to pull the bill away from comprehensive reform, including sit-ins in Reid’s own office. President Obama, who has maintained steady support for the DREAM Act, told La Opinion that while he supported the bill, he wanted to ensure that "we don’t somehow give up on the bigger strategy" by trying to pass it as a stand alone piece of legislation. Obama also said he would defer to the Congressional Hispanic Caucus on the best strategy. Good thing for them, DREAM Act activists have been lobbying members of the CHC all summer.

Politico reports that Reid is unsure whether he’s got the 60 votes necessary to pass the bill. While the DREAM Act does have some Republican supporters like Sens. Orrin Hatch and Dick Lugar, who was a cosponsor of the bill on a similar strategy 2007, Lugar has not indicated whether he’ll support the bill this time around. So far this year, the only major updates on national immigration policy have come in the form of ramped up enforcement and more money for the militarization of the border.