President Obama will meet with pro-immigration reform Democrats — Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Reps. Nydia Velazquez (D-N.Y.) and Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) — this afternoon to discuss immigration plans for the lame-duck session. The meeting will be a follow-up to a September meeting with the three Democrats, where Obama pledged support for comprehensive immigration reform and the DREAM Act. That time, they were hoping for the White House’s support to push senators to vote for the DREAM Act as part the defense authorization bill — an effort that failed when Republicans filibustered the bill.
Now, the stakes are somewhat different: In the lame-duck session, Democrats are up against tight time constraints and an additional Republican senator, the recently elected Mark Kirk from Illinois, to pass any immigration bills. But Menendez still says the DREAM Act, which would allow some undocumented students and military service members to gain legal status, should be the fallback to passing a far more contentious comprehensive immigration reform bill:
“The White House is ready and willing, and we may be having another meeting with the White House very soon this week,” Menendez said on a conference call, adding that Obama is “clearly interested” trying to reach a deal on immigration before the Congress convenes. [...]
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid have said they would like to push for the DREAM Act, which would provide a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants who were brought to the country as children, during the lame-duck session.
Menendez said that although he supports the legislation, he would “like that to be a fallback.”
“I would not like to start there,” Menendez said. “I am a strong supporter of the DREAM Act. If that is all that can be achieved, then I certainly support the opportunity.”
Granted, Menendez has some good reasons to continue pushing for comprehensive immigration reform: He introduced a reform bill just before the pre-election recess, and with Republicans set to take over the House in January it may be the last chance for reform for a few years. Obama will likely state his support for immigration reform — one of his campaign promises — and the DREAM Act.
But given the difficulty of rounding up 60 votes for even the DREAM Act, Reid and Pelosi seem unlikely to push for comprehensive immigration reform. The likelihood of passing comprehensive immigration reform during the lame-duck session is very low, and DREAM Act supporters have argued the act should not be held hostage to broader reform efforts if those efforts cannot gain Republican support.