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DREAM Act Changes as Vote Looms

The Senate introduced a new version of the DREAM Act yesterday, which included a number of concessions designed to attract more Republican votes.

The latest version, filed by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) late Tuesday night, would bar illegal immigrants from receiving in-state college tuition; drops the age of eligibility to 29 from 34; would not grant permanent legal status to anyone for at least 10 years; would restrict eligibility for those who commit certain misdemeanor crimes; and would limit individuals from being able to sponsor family members for U.S. citizenship, among other changes.

Those who receive conditional legal status under the DREAM Act also would be ineligible for Medicaid, food stamps and other government-funded benefits.

So we’re fighting for a bill, that would ban laws on the books in many states about in-state tuition, that would freeze current law in amber until 2020, that would lower the eligibility to lessen its impact and that would arbitrarily prevent people on a path to citizenship from the same rights as other Americans. It’s still a humane enough bill, and most of this was done to rebut nonsense from Republicans, but still, it’s a pretty bitter pill.

Now, if these were just served up as an example of Republican obstruction, I don’t think they would have gone out of their way to make any changes, though I could be wrong. No, I think that Durbin and Reid think there’s some chance they could actually get this done. Markos Moulitsas agrees that the concessions, which are ridiculous, are designed to get Republicans, and he has a whip count:

GOP probably voting yes:
Bennett (UT)
Lugar (IN)
Murkowski (AK)

DEMS probably voting no:
Baucus (MT)
Conrad (ND)
Manchin (WV)
Nelson (NE)
Pryor (AR)
Tester (MT)

GOPers who might vote “yes”
Brownback (KS)
Brown (MA)
Collins (ME)
Gregg (NH)
Hutchison (TX)
Kirk (IL)
LeMieux (FL)
Snowe (ME)
Ensign (NV)
Voinovich (OH)

Democrats who might vote “no”
Landrieu (LA)
McCaskill (MO)
Hagan (NC)
Dorgan (ND)

This mostly tracks with what I’ve been hearing. Markos provides some great color on this as well. Ensign, Hutchison and LeMieux (who’s leaving the Senate but may run against Bill Nelson in 2012) are under intense pressure from the Latino communities in their states.

You’d need two more Republican yes votes than Democratic no votes to get this done. I’m not optimistic, but the added concessions make me believe that there’s at least an effort afoot. We should know as soon as tomorrow.

UPDATE: I don’t think you need proof that Jeff Sessions is a liar, but just in case

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David Dayen

David Dayen