The DREAM Act is going to be coming up for a vote in the US Congress in the next little while, and the contours of that vote are beginning to come into shape.
The DREAM Act would give undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children a path to citizenship through college enrollment or military service. Polls show that it’s supported by a strong majority of Americans, and it’s expected to pass the House of Representatives easily.
It’s in the Senate, where a sixty-vote supermajority is required to invoke “cloture” and bring legislation to the floor for debate, where the real drama is expected.
Various media outfits and advocacy groups have released lists of the senators they believe to be in play, and though those lists are individually unreliable — Pro Publica’s list included a sponsor of the bill in their list of on-the-fence-senators — together they give a sense of the universe of possible wavering votes.
Thirty-five Democratic senators have signed on as sponsors of the DREAM Act, and another ten Democrats are understood to be reliable votes for its passage. On the other side, twenty-nine Republicans are known to be rock-solid in opposition. That leaves twenty-six senators who are at least theoretically up for grabs, and proponents of the bill need fifteen of those twenty-six to vote yes.
Here’s how those twenty-six votes break down, as of Friday, November 26:
- Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, was once seen as a possible “get” by DREAM Act but his spokesperson told the Daily Caller this week that he’ll be voting against cloture.
- Judd Gregg, Republican of New Hampshire, has told the National Review Online that he’ll also be voting no.
- George LeMieux, Republican of Florida, has announced that he’ll be voting against the bill, telling a reporter that he “cannot support consideration of the DREAM Act until we have taken substantial and effective measures to secure our borders.”
- Ben Nelson, Democrat of North Dakota, is also on record as a firm no.
Almost certainly against:
- Max Baucus, Democrat of Montana. Voted no in 2007. At that time he attacked the bill as “virtually the same” as “amnesty,” and he’s given no indication that he’s reconsidered his position.
- Scott Brown, Republican of Massachusetts, has repeatedly attacked the DREAM Act as an “amnesty” bill.
- Orrin Hatch, Republican of Utah, who has supported the bill in the past, now calls its consideration a “cynical” act, while his staff has laid the groundwork for a “no” vote with the National Review Online. He’s up for re-election in 2012, and unlikely to stick his neck out now.
- Kay Bailey Hutchison, Republican of Texas — who is the target of an ongoing hunger strike by DREAM Act advocates — said in a statement on Tuesday that she will not support the bill unless it is dramatically narrowed. Like Hatch, she’s up for re-election in 2012, and likely to stick with the conservative line for the next two years.
- John McCain, Republican of Arizona. Another past supporter of the bill who has distanced himself from it in recent months. One news story says that he has declared that he will not vote for it this year, though I haven’t been able to confirm that.
- Mark Pryor, Democrat of Arkansas. Voted no in 2007, said in September that he would “probably” oppose it again. Pryor was one of two Democrats who broke ranks in September and voted against bringing the defense bill to the floor with the DREAM Act and Don’t Ask Don’t Tell repeal added to it as a rider.
- Kent Conrad, Democrat of North Dakota. Voted no in 2007, said in September he hadn’t made up his mind. Up for re-election in 2012.
- Byron Dorgan, Democrat of North Dakota. Voted no in 2007, said in September he hadn’t made up his mind. Retiring from the Senate, which may make him less predictable.
- Kay Hagan, Democrat of North Carolina. Listed as a “likely no” vote at DREAMact.info, she has said that the bill “should” be taken up as part of comprehensive immigration reform, but hasn’t said definitively that she’ll vote against it.
- Joe Manchin, Democrat of West Virginia. A conservative Democrat just elected in a conservative state. Almost certainly a tough vote to get, but not yet declared either way.
- Olympia Snowe, Republican of Maine. Voted yes in 2007, but is worried about a possible primary challenge from the right when she runs for re-election in 2012.
- John Tester, Democrat of Montana. Voted no in 2007, hasn’t made a statement this time around.
Up for grabs:
- Chris Coons, Democrat of Delaware. Elected this November, but took office early as he was running to fill Vice President Joe Biden’s seat for the remainder of his unexpired term. Hasn’t staked out a public position on the issue.
- Mary Landrieu, Democrat of Louisiana. Voted no in 2007, but one blogger said she was told by Landrieu’s staff this month that she’s a supporter this time, and she voted for cloture on the defense bill in September. Landrieu isn’t up for re-election again until 2016.
- Lisa Murkowski, Republican of Alaska. Is said by her staff to be “reviewing the bill.” This vote may well be a big one for Murkowski, who won re-election in November as a write-in candidate after losing in the Republican primary. If any Republican has a reason to want to poke the GOP in the eye right now, it’s Murkowski.
- George Voinovich, Republican of Ohio. Listed as a no vote on two bloggers’ scoresheets, though apparently hasn’t made a public statement. Is retiring from the Senate, and may be less concerned about maintaining party discipline as a result. Has been taking increasingly liberal stands on immigration issues in recent years. DREAMact.info lists him as undecided.
- Sam Brownback, Republican of Kansas. Voted yes in 2007, no position this time. Retiring from the Senate to serve as governor of Kansas.
- Susan Collins, Republican of Maine. Voted yes in 2007, hasn’t taken a position yet this year.
- Claire McCaskill, Democrat of Missouri. Voted no in 2007, but described herself as “very sympathetic” to the bill’s aims this September. Voted for cloture on the defense bill in September.
- Jim Webb, Democrat of Virginia. Another vote for cloture in September, he’s listed at the DREAMact.info website as a solid “yes” vote on the bill.
- Richard Lugar, Republican of Indiana. He’s a sponsor of the bill, and a longtime proponent of it, so he really shouldn’t be on the list at all. But Pro Publica listed him among the senators whose votes are “considered uncertain,” so here he is.
- Robert Bennett, Republican of Utah, has also announced that he’ll be voting for the bill.
So there you have it. To recap, there are twenty-six senators who are supposedly up for grabs, but six of them have already publicly declared their positions — four against, and two in favor. That leaves twenty actual undecideds, and the DREAMers need the support of thirteen of them in the cloture vote to win passage of the bill.
Of those twenty, four seem like solid pickup opportunities, and four more look like plausible gets. If all eight vote yes, that leaves five more votes needed out of the twelve remaining senators — but six of those twelve are almost certain “no” votes.
I’ll keep updating this list as the vote gets closer and more information emerges. If anyone has any additions or corrections, please let me know in comments.