Since Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced that he would be introducing a defense authorization bill next week that includes the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) has been desperately trying to justify his opposition to a bill he co-sponsored in 2005, 2006, and 2007. One of McCain’s main arguments is that for “many many years we never put any extraneous items on the bill” and that, starting last year, “Carl Levin and Harry Reid put hate crimes on it which had nothing to do with it.”
However, today, Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) noted that not only was hate crimes legislation considered as an amendment to the defense authorization bill in 2001, 2005, and 2008, each time the hate crimes amendment was approved. The only difference last year, Levin points out, is that the provision was not dropped in conference and was included in the enacted in legislation.
Levin also noted that “over the last dozen years” the Senate has debated “non-relevant amendments” to the defense authorization bill “on a number of issues.” One of those amendments was introduced by McCain himself.
In 2000, McCain offered an amendment to the defense authorization bill that required public disclosure of donors and expenditures. McCain faced similar criticism from his opponents who argued that his amendment had nothing to do with defense. Even one of his critics conceded that McCain was “acting under the rules.”
Levin explains why he supported McCain’s amendment at the time:
I supported the McCain amendment at that time and I also supported the right of the Senator from Arizona to offer it — not because it was relevant to the defense authorization bill, it was not. But because it was the only opportunity apparently to consider that bill and it was the right thing to do.
The DREAM Act has a lot more to do with defense than a campaign finance amendment. Back in 2006 when the Senate was about to debate comprehensive immigration reform that would legalize millions of undocumented immigrants, McCain explicitly made the connection himself, stating “[r]ight now, at this very moment, there are fighting for us in Iraq and Afghanistan soldiers who are not yet American citizens but who have dreamed that dream, and have risked their lives to defend it. They should make us proud, not selfish to be Americans.”
Republicans, meanwhile, have shown zero interest in taking up either the DREAM Act or comprehensive immigration reform on its own. And, in the past, McCain has clearly agreed that passing the DREAM Act is in fact the “right” thing to do through his repeated sponsorship of the bill. In his 2006 speech, McCain concluded, “They came to grasp the lowest rung of the ladder, and they intend to rise. Let them rise. Let them rise.”