President Obama met privately in the Oval Office today with Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-NY) and Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) whom he assuring them that he would push to help get the DREAM Act passed.
“The president made it absolutely clear to us that he would leave no stone unturned in order to accomplish an approval in the Senate of the DREAM Act,” Gutierrez said from the White House driveway this afternoon. “We asked them to put the full weight and might and the full influence of the White House and his personal energy and commitment behind it.”
The DREAM Act would help undocumented students who came to the US before age 16 become legal residents after five years by completing higher education or military service.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has said that he will attach the non-controversial DREAM Act to the more controversial defense authorization bill which includes the repeal of the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy to be considered at some point next week in the Senate.
Mitch McConnell, the top Senate Republican said on Tuesday that the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell repeal and the DREAM Act were “extraneous measures that have nothing to do with defense,” making the bill “needlessly controversial.”
Sen. Menendez defended the move today following the Oval Office meeting, saying it is “appropriate” and that he hopes Republicans will join Democrats on this.
In a paper statement following the meeting Rep. Luis Gutierrez, the bill’s sponsor, said today he’s certain the House has the 218 votes to pass it if the Senate can.
“With the White House standing with us and the Senate poised to act, I think we are seeing the [immigration reform] effort begin to bear fruit. There are at least 218 votes in the House to pass the DREAM Act. The House is ready to act. We call on the Senate to pass the bill,” he said in a statement.
At the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Dinner on Wednesday evening the president personally vouched for the bill.
“The Senate is going to have a chance to do the right thing over the next few weeks when Senator Reid brings the DREAM Act to the floor. Keep in mind, in the past, this was a bill that was supported by a majority of Democrats and Republicans. There’s no reason why it shouldn’t receive that same kind of bipartisan support today.”
The president said he will do “whatever it takes” to help pass the bill so he can sign it into law, “It’s the right thing to do. We should get it done. “
In the meeting today Sen. Menendez also discussed the broader need for immigration reform that he plans to introduce in the coming weeks.
“The President told Senator Menendez that he looks forward to reviewing the bill, noting that he strongly supported the proposal that Senate Democrats outlined earlier this year,” the White House said in a paper statement following the meeting. “The President reiterated that the strength of that proposal was that it was based on the bipartisan framework developed by Senators Schumer and Graham.”