Rep. Gutierrez: House will take up DREAM Act legislation next week

Legislation carving a path to legal residency for thousands of illegal immigrant students will hit the House floor next week, according to a leading Democratic supporter.

Democrats had hoped to move the DREAM Act through the Rules Committee as early as Thursday, setting up a Friday floor vote. But, with no votes scheduled for Friday, leaders simply "ran out of time," pushing consideration of the bill to next week, according to Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.).

"We are still on track to pass the DREAM Act in the House, but we ran out of time to have a vote this week, so it looks like we will have it next week," Gutierrez said in a statement. "We have to follow certain rules in the House and do things in a certain order to call bills to the floor and we ran out of time for the DREAM Act this week."

A House aide familiar with the debate floated another reason for the delay: A handful of "CBO hangups" led Democrats to scrap their plan to consider the bill this week, the aide said, referring to the Congressional Budget Office.

On Thursday, CBO estimated the bill would reduce the deficit by $1.4 billion over the next decade. The figure reflects a $1.4 billion increase in on-budget deficits, and a $2.8 billion decrease in off-budget deficits, CBO noted. Only on-budget figures are considered under pay-as-you-go budget rules adopted by the House.

Earlier in the day, Gutierrez indicated the bill has enough support to pass through the lower chamber.

"I'm encouraged," he told The Hill, "because the obstacles appear procedural in nature — it's not the votes."

Still, a number of Blue Dog Democrats are vowing to oppose the measure, leaving supporters of the bill anxious about its chances of passing even the House.

Some lawmakers, like outgoing Rep. Gene Taylor (D-Miss.), said they simply don't agree with the policy. Others, like outgoing-Rep. Lincoln Davis (D-Tenn.), said they support the concept, but want the the bill to pass first through the Senate, which already shot it down once in September.

"If it's a clean bill, then I'll have an interest in it, but only if the Senate passes it first," Lincoln told The Hill. "If the House brings it up without the Senate passing it first, I'll vote against it."

Other Blue Dogs, including outgoing Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.), declined to comment.

On Wednesday, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said the DREAM Act remains a Democratic priority this year. "I think we would have the votes when we bring it to the floor," he told reporters.

Sponsored by Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.), the proposal would offer a chance at legal residency for illegal immigrants who arrived in the U.S. before age 16 and have since gotten high-school diplomas. Under the bill, residency would be granted to those who attend college for two years or enter the military.

"These people haven't broken any laws, except to be brought here," Rep. Ciro Rodriguez (D-Texas), a supporter of the bill, said Thursday.

The White House has pushed strongly for Congress to pass the bill in the lame duck. On Thursday, Homeland Security Janet Napolitano joined that chorus, arguing the changes would allow the agency to focus its deportation efforts on real criminals.

"What makes sense is to allow these young people a way to adjust their immigration status that is firm but fair," Napolitano told reporters on a press call.

Opponents of the measure say it will grant amnesty to people who broke the law in coming to the U.S.