Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidHarry Reid calls on Democrats to plow forward on immigration Democrats brace for tough election year in Nevada The Memo: Biden's horizon is clouded by doubt MORE (D-Nev.) won a tough reelection fight by making promises to his constituents, and now he has the tough job of delivering in the lame-duck session.
Shortly before Election Day, Reid promised during an interview with Univision, a Spanish-language television network, that he would bring the Dream Act up for a vote before the end of the year.
Hispanic and union voters were critical to Reid’s reelection to a fifth term last week.
But Reid will have a difficult time delivering on these promises because of staunch GOP opposition to any legislation considered controversial.
“In a lame-duck, typically we pass only things that expire at the end of the year,” said a senior Republican aide, who said the focus should be on extending the Bush-era tax cuts, which expire at the end of the year.
The aide warned that Republicans would not allow controversial legislation to pass.
Republicans panned the Dream Act during the campaign as granting “amnesty” to illegal immigrants.
Reid’s opponent Sharron Angle said the bill would “incentivize amnesty.”
“He’s looking for votes,” Angle said in September on Fox News.
But Democrats argue that 11 Senate Republicans have supported the Dream Act in the past.
The proposed legislation would allow the children of illegal immigrants to become permanent residents if they arrived in the U.S. at the age of 15 or younger; lived in the country for at least five years; showed good moral character; graduated from high school; served in the military or attended college for two years.
Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) is a co-sponsor of the legislation and still supports its passage. But other Republican senators backed away from the legislation before the election.
Senate Democratic Whip Dick DurbinDick DurbinInfrastructure bill carves out boosts to first responders, wildland firefighters Democrats face critical 72 hours Bipartisan lawmakers target judges' stock trading with new bill MORE (Ill.), the lead sponsor of the bill, predicted earlier this fall that he would need the votes of about five Republicans to pass the bill.
Labor officials are also pressing Reid to take up legislation that would enhance the collective bargaining rights of police and firefighters’ unions. In some states, it is illegal for police and firefighters to bargain through unions.
"There certainly have been conversations with the leader and the leader’s office on that issue," said Barry Kasinitz, director of governmental affairs at the International Association of Fire Fighters. "We are very hopeful of a vote. We are hopeful they will find time to bring it up."
The International Association of Fire Fighters is affiliated with the AFL-CIO.
"Majority Leader Reid very much wants to bring the bill up," Kasinitz added.
He said it’s important the bill moves before the end of the 111th Congress.
“Procedurally, it’s much easier to move it while Democrats are in control of the House,” he said, adding it has six Republican co-sponsors and would obtain “well over 60 votes in the Senate.”
The legislation is sponsored by Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), who will retire at the end of the year, and Republican colleagues might be persuaded to give him a retirement gift.
Hispanic voters turned out in record numbers in Nevada, giving Reid a crucial boost.
The Pew Hispanic Center reported that Hispanics favored Reid over Angle by more than a two-to-one margin, 68 percent to 30 percent.
Labor unions have also claimed credit for helping reelect Reid.
The AFL-CIO reported that 69 percent of its 270,000 members voted for Reid, compared to 29 percent who supported Angle.
Reid lost non-union members by a margin of 49 percent to 44 percent, according to the AFL-CIO.
“We provided the margin of victory,” an AFL-CIO spokesman informed reporters on Election Day.