Apparently undeterred by Friday’s 9.8 percent unemployment shocker, Democrats in both the House and the Senate say they will push for floor votes this week on a DREAM Act that opponents warn will add untold billions to the federal deficit.
Republicans aiming to keep the focus on cutting taxes and boosting employment are expected to oppose the measure.
Majority Senate Whip Dick Durbin of Illinois predicts the act will come up for a vote this week.
“Sen. [Harry] Reid is going to call it,” he told The Hill.
Asked whether he had the 60 votes needed to invoke cloture and shut off debate on the bill, Durbin hedged: “I’m working on it, talking to members.”
House Democrats, meanwhile, are launching their own plans this week for the DREAM Act legislation.
Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., said House Democrats, who spent much of last week debating a symbolic vote against extending the Bush tax cuts that they knew was dead-on-arrival in the Senate, ran out of time to calll for a vote on the DREAM Act.
But he told The Hill that lame-duck Democrats will bring the bill up for a vote in the week ahead.
Several blue dog Democrats in the House say they will oppose the measure, which provides a pathway to citizenship for young undocumented workers who either attend college or serve in the military.
The White House is urging Congress to pass the bill.
"What makes sense is to allow these young people a way to adjust their immigration status that is firm but fair," Homeland Security chief Janet Napolitano told reporters last week.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., has said Democrats have the votes they need to pass the legislation. But some members of Congress are worried the Act would aggravate the already serious budget deficit.
On Thursday, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released an analysis showing that the DREAM Act would reduce the deficit by $1.4 billion over the next 10 years. It would do so by adding authorized workers to the tax rolls.
However, a report that the Center for Immigration Studies published last week projects a much different impact.
The study anticipates a cost to taxpayers of $6.2 billion a year. It predicts that the act would spur more than 1 million youths to enroll in state universities and community colleges, where they would receive an average tuition assistance of $6,000 annually.
“Many of these institutions are already under enormous fiscal strain,” the report notes, adding that the DREAM Act makes no provision for the additional costs.
Indeed, the CBO report concedes that after 2020, when DREAM Act beneficiaries become eligible for Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and federal health programs, the red ink will begin to spill.
Between 2021 and 2061, according to CBO estimates, the act would increase projected deficits by $5 billion to $20 billion.
Beyond its merits, the DREAM Act appears aptly named. That’s because 42 Republican senators already have stated they will not consider for any legislation during the lame-duck Congress until a federal spending bill is passed and an extension of the Bush tax cuts is approved. If so, it is indeed a flight of fancy, because without 60 votes, the measure will never reach the Senate floor.
Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb, also says he’ll vote against bringing the act to a vote in the Senate.
"I'm not going to support any legislation that I don't think adds to jobs, or to the military or to the economy,” Nelson said in a post on his website. “Consequently, I won't support any motion to proceed or any kind of cloture measure on the DREAM Act.”
Republican senators object that Majority Leader Reid has introduced four versions of the DREAM Act, without convening hearings on any of them.
GOP Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama has written a letter to his fellow senators urging them to vote against the Act.
“At bottom,” he states, “the DREAM Act is poorly drafted, filled with loopholes and, by rewarding illegal behavior, will without doubt encourage future illegal immigration.”
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