DREAM Act, ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ repeal fail to clear Senate

The Senate failed to pass two major immigration and military policy measures Thursday.

The Senate voted yesterday morning to delay a vote on the DREAM Act, a bill that would offer legal status to some young undocumented immigrants, in an attempt to increase the bill’s likelihood of achieving bipartisan support. Later, a filibuster in the Senate prevented the repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that bans openly gay and lesbian soldiers from serving in the military.

Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid called for a vote to end the attempt to pass the DREAM Act with plans revisit the issue at later date. Democratic representatives succeeded in passing the motion to table the Act with a 59-40 result. Although Reid has not declared the date of the rescheduled vote, he has suggested that it will not be until lawmakers come to an agreement on the current tax package, as many Senate Republicans have committed to block the legislation until then.

The DREAM Act would present the opportunity for some undocumented immigrants under age 30 to obtain legal residential status as long as they met certain requirements. To be eligible, immigrants must have lived in the United States for at least five years, arriving in the country before age 16 and enrolled in college or enlisted in the military for two years.

Another issue currently under Senate scrutiny is the repeal of the military’s ban of openly gay service members. Republicans blocked the bill to repeal the ban in a vote of 57 to 40, leaving supporters three votes short of the 60 required to pass the Senate.

Several senators associated the loss with Reid’s choice to call the vote before Republicans and Democrats had finished negotiations aimed to reach a bipartisan agreement on different logistics of the bill. Now, two senators—one Republican, one independent—say they plan to jointly introduce a stand-alone bill separating the repeal from the larger defense bill to which it was originally connected. Many believe the bill is still unlikely to pass, though the Pentagon has issued a statement declaring that passing the bill would likely have little impact on troop performance, even during war time.

Senate Republicans have threatened to block any legislation until legislators reach a deal on the tax package. As a result, both the DREAM Act and the “don’t ask, don’t tell” repeal have could have little chance at obtaining the Senate’s approval this year. Both the repeal and the DREAM Act are issues the Obama Administration has pushed strongly for, and will be seen as significant defeats for the president if they do not pass.


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