Will the Senate cut short the ‘Dream’?

WILL THE SENATE CUT SHORT THE ‘DREAM’?…. The DREAM Act (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act) really should be an 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. The Pentagon has urged Congress to pass it, the CBO found that it lowers the deficit.

Last night, it took a step closer to becoming law.

The House passed a landmark youth immigration bill known as the Dream Act on Wednesday night largely along party lines, but the measure faces a tough test in the Senate as Democrats struggle to pass priority legislation in the waning days of this Congress.

Eight Republicans joined in approving the bill, 216 to 198. Thirty-eight Democrats voted no. The measure offers a path to citizenship for young people who were brought to this country illegally before age 16 and who have enrolled in college or entered the military.

President Obama said the passage was historic. “This vote is not only the right thing to do for a group of talented young people who seek to serve a country they know as their own by continuing their education or serving in the military, but it is the right thing for the United States of America,” he said in a statement.

Obama called on the Senate to follow suit.

By all appearances, that almost certainly won’t happen. On the surface, Senate support shouldn’t be too tough — the bill is co-sponsored by Sen. Dick Lugar (R-Ind.); it was written in large part by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah); and it has enjoyed the enthusiastic backing of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).

But that was before the Republican Party fell off the right-wing cliff. Hatch now hates the bill he helped write; McCain no longer remembers the promises he made about passing the legislation; and while Lugar is still on board, his support won’t be enough to overcome his party’s filibuster, especially with a couple of conservative Democrats opposing the bill.

Proponents can’t even count on the GOP “moderates” — Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) announced she would support the filibuster and deny the DREAM Act an up-or-down vote, likely sealing its fate in the process.

I’ve been told the measure will come to the Senate floor around 11 a.m. (EST), so there’s still a little more time for 11th-hour appeals, but at this point, optimism is in short supply.

Update: By mid-morning, the Democratic leadership, short on votes, decided to change gears. Today’s vote was scrapped, and the Senate will instead consider the House’s version of the bill on Monday.