SENATE KILLS ‘DREAM ACT’…. It should have been 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 (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors 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, pay some steep fees, and become eligible for citizenship. The Pentagon urged Congress to pass it, and the CBO found that it lowers the deficit, a priority Republicans at least pretend to consider important.

Last week, it passed the House, and it would pass the Senate if members were allowed to vote on it. But that’s not how the chamber works anymore — this morning, as expected, Republicans blocked the vote, refused to allow majority rule, and killed the bill for the foreseeable future.

When the gavel went down, the DREAM Act had 55 supporters and 41 opponents. Because the Senate is the Senate, 41 trumps 55.

As best as I can tell, three Republicans — Lugar (Ind.), Bennett (Utah), and Murkowski (Alaska) — sided with the majority. Five Democrats — Pryor (Ark.), Tester (Montana), Ben Nelson (Neb.), Baucus (Montana), and Hagan (N.C.) — sided with the minority. [Update: Here’s the roll call on the vote.]

If those five Democrats had voted for cloture, the GOP filibuster would have been defeated and the DREAM Act would be on its way towards passage.

Also note, the legislation 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 — this morning, both Hatch and McCain refused to allow senators to even vote up or down on the bill they used to champion.

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Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.