Pass the DREAM Act, lower the deficit

PASS THE DREAM ACT, LOWER THE DEFICIT…. There are still many who hope Congress can pass the DREAM Act (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act) during the lame-duck session. The effort got a bit of a boost yesterday.

This should be a fairly easy one. Every year, tens of thousands of young illegal immigrants graduate from American high schools, but are quickly stuck — they can’t qualify for college aid, and they can’t work legally. America is the only home they’ve ever known — in most cases, they were, at a very young age, brought into the country illegally by their parents — but at 18, they have few options.

The DREAM Act, which has traditionally enjoyed strong bipartisan support, provides a path to citizenship for these young immigrants — graduate from high school, get conditional permanent residency status, go to college or serve in the military, and become eligible for citizenship.

Yesterday, the Congressional Budget Office made the pitch even easier.

On Thursday, CBO estimated the bill would reduce the deficit by $1.4 billion over the next decade. The figure reflects a $1.4 billion increase in on-budget deficits, and a $2.8 billion decrease in off-budget deficits, CBO noted. Only on-budget figures are considered under pay-as-you-go budget rules adopted by the House.

This probably won’t change a lot of minds; nearly all Republicans, including those who helped write the DREAM Act, have decided the bill constitutes “amnesty.”

That said, the CBO score does bring to mind a fairly consistent trend in recent policy debates. For all of the obsessive attention, especially from the right, focused on reducing the deficit, Republicans have a nasty habit of rejecting ideas that actually help close the budget shortfall.

The Democratic health care reform proposal lowered the deficit … and Republicans opposed it.

The Democratic student-loan bill lowered the deficit … and Republicans opposed it.

The Democratic effort to let Bush tax cuts for the rich expire would lower the deficit … and Republicans oppose it.

The Democratic energy/climate bill would lower the deficit … and Republicans oppose it.

The Democratic effort to reduce bloated Pentagon spending would lower the deficit … and most Republicans oppose it.

It’s almost as if Republicans say they care about deficit reduction, until they’re offered a chance to actually reduce the deficit.

If I didn’t know better, I might think GOP officials don’t think a deficit-reduction measure “counts” unless it undermines struggling families in some way. That couldn’t be, could it?