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Conference Vice Chairman Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), who also leads the Judiciary subcommittee on immigration, announced at a news conference Saturday that “immigration reform is hardly dead.” But the outlook for immigration reform next year, when Democrats will hold just a 53-vote majority, is grim. Just three Republicans voted to advance the DREAM Act, and five Democrats voted against. Republicans in favor were Sens. Bob Bennett (Utah), Murkowski and Sen. Dick Lugar (Ind.), who is up for re-election in 2012 and may face a primary challenge from the right thanks in part to this vote. The defecting Democrats were Sens. Kay Hagan (N.C.), Mark Pryor (Ark.) and Max Baucus and Jon Tester of Montana. Tester, who also faces re-election in 2012, is one of Republicans’ top targets as they attempt to take control of the Senate.
Republicans blasted Democrats for pushing votes on a pair of liberal priorities in the waning days of the legislative year, when Members still must approve a continuing resolution to keep the government funded and potentially adopt the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. Republicans have warned in recent days that action on DREAM or DADT would severely threaten the passage of START. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the ranking member on the Armed Services Committee who has led the revolt against the DADT repeal, took it one step further Saturday by saying Reid’s action on the floor would poison next year’s environment in the Senate.
McCain called it a “bizarre world” in which Reid has been pushing issues on Democrats’ political agenda. Given that, he asked, “Do you somehow think that beginning next Jan. 5 we will all love one another and 'Kumbaya'? I don’t think so.”
The DADT bill, pushed by Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), would repeal a 1993 law enacted under President Bill Clinton. The Pentagon this month released findings of its survey of active-duty members and their families showing repeal would not harm troop morale or readiness.
“Plenty of people had already planned the funeral for this legislation,” said Fred Sainz, vice president of the Human Rights Campaign. “Today, we pulled out a victory from what was almost certain defeat just a few days ago.”