The DREAM Act, intended to extend amnesty to illegal aliens who enroll in college or enlist in the military, has died in the Senate. The measure came five votes short of the total needed for cloture. While Democrats, including current Speaker Nancy Pelosi, vowed to continue advocating what she called “critical legislation,” no comparable measure is likely to pass the new Republican House of Representatives. Amnesty is off the table for the foreseeable future.
Meanwhile, the bill to repeal the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” rule covering gays in the military has advanced, on a vote of 63-33, with the “yes” votes including six Republicans: Scott Brown of Massachusetts, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Mark Kirk of Illinois, Susan Collins and Olympia Snow of Maine, and George Voinovich of Ohio. The measure is expected to win passage during a full vote later today, currently scheduled for 3pm Eastern time.
Voinovich, who was previously undecided about the measure, said he was swayed by the Pentagon report that concluded the negative effects of overturning the ban would be minimal. “Having reviewed the report, I accept its findings and Secretary Gates’ recommendation and reassurance that the repeal will be implemented when the battle effectiveness of our forces is assured and proper preparations have been completed,” he said in a statement.
Repeal of the DADT measure would be seen as a political win for President Obama, who campaigned on the issue, and a surprisingly rare victory in the lame-duck session for the Democrats, who have generally advocated repeal against gradually softening Republican opposition. One Republican who continues to oppose repeal is Senator John McCain, who believes the law should not be changed during wartime.
Update: Another significant opponent of DADT repeal is Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who called the current measure “ill-considered” in a statement before the cloture votes today. One of McConnell’s criticisms is that Democrats would not allow amendments to the bill, including one that would have required the “the service chiefs to certify that this repeal will not harm combat readiness, although they are responsible for training the force.” McConnell wants the measure tabled until amendments can be offered and voted upon.