At a lunch with opinion writers yesterday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi didn’t just address her infamous health-care remark head-on. She also took on the popular — and erroneous — notion among Republicans that President Obama could have gotten immigration reform passed earlier in his term.
“[I am] so proud of what the president did on the Dream Act,” Pelosi said as she praised Obama for his action last week to temporarily halt deportations of young illegal immigrants who meet specified criteria. Republicans are not equally enamored. They have not only roundly criticized Obama, but they have also engaged in a mad scramble of revisionist history.
“I saw this morning a number of Republicans reported to say, ‘Oh, the president had the House, he had the Senate . . . he could have won this legislatively,’” Pelosi said. “No. We passed it in the House. It got 55 votes in the Senate, a majority is not enough there, and Republicans held up the bill. So, the obstruction — that the need for 60 votes is what did not have this bill go to his desk.”
Pelosi was right.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid tried to pass the Dream Act as a stand-alone bill on Dec. 16, 2010. But the 55 votes it gained — that’s victory in the real world where simple majority rules — was not enough to invoke cloture and stop a filibuster. The Democratic majority then had 55 seats. There was one independent (Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont) and one independent Democrat (Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut). Both Sanders and Lieberman voted with Democrats, for the most part. They voted with Democrats on the Dream Act. But five Democrats voted against it, while three Republicans voted for it.
And nothing crystallizes the dynamic at that time omore than these these three paragraphs from a May 2010 Post story featuring Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).
In a statement Wednesday, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham (S.C.) criticized President Obama for reportedly reaching out to other GOP senators on immigration, accusing him of pushing forward on an issue that has no hope of being addressed this year.
“Let’s be clear, the lack of support for comprehensive immigration reform is not a Republican problem, it is an institutional problem,” Graham said in a statement. “There is just not the appetite -- on either side of the aisle -- for this issue right now.”
The statement baffled White House aides, who noted that it was Graham who, months earlier, had urged the president to reach out in a bipartisan way on immigration.
So there you have it. At the insistence of a Republican leader, Obama tries to work with the GOP to reach a bipartisan solution on illegal immigration. Then he’s criticized for doing it and the effort is declared a waste of time. But when the president moves to do what the Senate and Congress wouldn’t, he is slammed as “usurp[ing] the constitutional authority of the United States Congress....” Were it not for Republican obstruction, were it not for the absurdity of 55 votes not being enough to make the Dream Act a law, Obama’s bold, yet temporary, move wouldn’t have been necessary.