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What are the chances of a DREAM Act in 2018?

What is Necessary for the DREAM Act to Pass?

While the first proposed deadline has passed to bring the DREAM Act to a vote in 2017, we are still cautiously optimistic that we could see a DREAM Act in 2018. Our primary reason for optimism is that the majority of both houses of Congress, as well as Trump (at times), have voiced their support for the DREAM Act legislation. To get to 51% in the House of Representatives, only 17 Republicans must vote in favor of a DREAM Act. Since the House is currently comprised of 234 Republicans and 201 Democrats (17 Republican votes results in a majority vote of 218-217 assuming all Democrats will vote in favor of a DREAM Act, which is a pretty safe assumption). On December 5th, 34 House Republicans signed a letter to the Republican party asking to enact a permanent solution for Dreamers (or DACA recipients). Therefore, we actually have twice as many GOP votes as are needed in the House.

In the Senate, we need far less Republican support since currently there are (or will be shortly once Doug Jones is sworn in to replace Jeff Sessions in Alabama) 51 Republicans, 47 Democrats and 2 Independents. It is safe to assume that between the two independents and the Republicans, well more than the necessary 4 additional Senators will vote in favor of a DREAM Act.

So, if we have the votes, what is the holdup?

Well first, there is this Trump character. Unfortunately, 51% of both houses only passes new legislation if the President is on board. If he vetoes the bill, then the legislation could only pass with 2/3’s of both houses, a much taller order. Further, Trump appears unwilling to stick to his word on this issue, now choosing to use the DREAM Act as political leverage to extract other legislation that is very unpopular with Democrats.

Additionally, there are many rules that complicate bringing a new bill to vote. First, because both the House and the Senate are Republican controlled, they appoint the leader of both legislative bodies. These leaders are Mitch McConnell for the Senate and Paul Ryan for the House. These majority leaders control the procedure for bringing a new bill to a vote. Because they have the power to schedule when a new bill comes to a final vote, they can greatly stall the process for legislation that their party does not support. Senators also have the ability to “filibuster” any new legislation they oppose, which effectively allows them to run out the clock on passing new legislation in a given senate session. The rule derives from the principle that there should be no limit on how long a Senator can debate a piece of legislation. The bizarre consequence is that we have seen senators read from the dictionary as they filibuster a bill they oppose so that the bill never proceeds to a vote. Generally, 60 votes are required to bring a filibuster to an end, which would be challenging if a Republican senator chooses to filibuster the DREAM Act legislation.

Given the impediments that President Trump and the GOP majority held houses still pose, a simple majority will likely be insufficient to pass the DREAM Act. CNN did recently report that Mitch McConnell pledged to bring the Dream Act to a vote in January . . . if the parties reach agreement on border security, interior enforcement and other parts of the immigration system. But such a broad, conditional statement gives us little assurance that a vote will happen this month.

How much support above a simple majority will be needed to get the Republican leaders and President Trump on board is a question we hope is answered by actually passing the DREAM Act in 2018.

 Photo by:Baim Hanif