Yesterday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) filed a cloture motion on the DREAM Act, setting up a vote that will take place tomorrow. It still remains unclear — if not unlikely — that the legislation will attract the 60 votes needed to limit debate.
One lawmaker who isn’t even on the list of Senate targets is Sen. John McCain (R-AZ). Despite the fact that he was supportive of the DREAM Act in the past, advocates seem pretty confident that he will stick to his new enforcement-only stance. His daughter — Meghan McCain — however, is slightly more open-minded. Ms. McCain told MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell this week that she supports the DREAM Act in theory, but is opposed to the way it is being “jammed” through by Reid:
O’DONNELL: The DREAM Act provides for them a no-cost path to legalization in this country if they should choose it. Is that something you think Republicans should be able to get behind? The Wall Street Journal thinks it’s a good idea.
MCCAIN: I do. I understand and I think the greatest part about being an American is that you can have any education you want. You can be anything you want to be. [...] I worry about the costs. I worry about the legalities of it. But, as a general whole, yes, I do believe that if you’ve been living in this country for five years as a student you should have access to education. [...] I think Harry Reid is trying to jam this through without everyone being able to really analyze what’s really going on in this bill.
But as a general whole yes, I do believe that everyone should have access to any kind of education — especially if you’re going to serve your country in the military. [...] I just don’t know if two weeks away from Christmas with all the things going on in the economy is an appropriate time to be doing this.
Meghan McCain’s hesitations about the DREAM Act don’t really hold water. The DREAM Act has been around since 2001 and you’d think most Republicans would be aware of the changes made to the modified 2010 bill as they were meant to address their concerns. Meanwhile, the CBO found that the DREAM Act would reduce the deficit by $1.4 billion over ten years. I’m not sure what McCain is talking about when she refers to the “legality” of the DREAM Act, but maybe it has something to do with the fact that she seems to think it provides “access to education” when what it really does is allow undocumented immigrants who pursue an education (and pay for it themselves) or serve in the military to actually make something of themselves by legally working in the U.S.
Of course, Meghan McCain doesn’t get a vote and she also doesn’t seem to have much influence over her obstinate father — so her qualified support and misinformed concerns about the DREAM Act aren’t really going to affect what happens tomorrow one way or another. However, I predict that, if the DREAM Act fails tomorrow, so-called “moderate” Republicans will be toeing a similar line when the Latino community demands an answer from them in an attempt to minimize the damage done by voting against an issue Latino voters deeply care about.
And, since these arguments don’t hold up, allow me to translate what they really mean: the DREAM Act is a good idea unless it’s being pushed right before Christmas by a Democrat like Harry Reid. It’s a slightly more nuanced message than simply calling it “amnesty.”