Gutierrez confident DREAM Act still alive; will stump for Reid

Confident that the Senate may take another swing at the DREAM Act before leaving, Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) is hitting the campaign trail for the Senate’s most powerful Democrat while crediting the White House with giving the measure renewed legs.

The Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, which would provide residential status to certain students who came to the U.S. illegally, fell four votes shy of the 60 needed to proceed in the Senate earlier this week after President Obama met with Gutierrez, the chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus’s Immigration Task Force, and two other pro-immigration reform lawmakers in an attempt to galvanize the Democratic base.

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But Gutierrez is holding out hope that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who faces a difficult reelection bid this November, has plans to bring it back up before the upper chamber breaks for the fall.

Gutierrez pointed to a Senate rule that allows the bill, with two days' notice, to be brought to the chamber’s floor for consideration at any time. He also suggested that the Senate hold an up-or-down vote on the measure alone instead of attaching it to the defense authorization bill.

“I’m really really hopeful [that the DREAM Act will come up before the end of the year],” Gutierrez told The Hill after the measure stalled in the Senate this week. “I’m happy that the senators have used the procedural rule 14. Their clear intent is to give it another try. When? That’s up to them.

“I’m very proud of Reid. I just re-enlisted for another long weekend, Saturday through Tuesday, in Nevada for the middle of October because you’ve got to go help him.”

Reid led his Tea Party challenger, Sharron Angle (R), by only two points, according to a Reuters poll last week. The Real Clear Politics average of recent polls shows the race in a tie.

In June, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told an Ecuador television station that Obama wants to pass immigration reform this year. But with comprehensive immigration reform dead in this Congress, the DREAM Act is seen as an incremental step toward overhauling the nation’s immigration laws.

Gutierrez, who is considering running for mayor of Chicago next year, has been one of the measure's most vocal and avid supporters. He said that the meeting with Obama last week, with Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), the only Hispanic member of the upper chamber and the head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, and Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.), the chairwoman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, significantly improved the bill’s chances.

“The White House helped. I think they did. When we were with the president we were thinking 54 or 55 [votes in favor of the bill], but we got 57,” he said. “I kept saying that we had to have at least 55, so that they could proceed. This close to an election. Knowing that the DREAM Act is going to come up. That’s 57 Democrats that say let’s move it on.”

Gutierrez said he’s also planning to hold an event this weekend in Chicago with the DREAM Act’s lead sponsor in the upper chamber, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.).

The measure has failed before in the Senate, however. In 2007, the bill only attracted 52 of the 60 votes needed to proceed.