Sens. Jim Risch and Mike Crapo joined with a majority of Senate Republicans in voting down proposals that would allow homosexuals to openly serve in the military and allow young people in the U.S. illegally to remain in the country if they attend college or join the military. Both of Idaho’s senators said the two plans were rushed through by Democrats during Congress’s lame duck session.
Risch and Crapo both cast procedural votes Thursday against the DREAM Act, short for Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors, and a defense spending bill that would have repealed the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy preventing gays and lesbians from openly serving.
“Today’s votes were nothing more than the majority checking off a laundry list of campaign promises to their base,” Risch said in a prepared statement. “The DREAM Act remains a deeply troubling bill that provides amnesty and taxpayer-funded benefits to those who broke our nation’s laws. The defense authorization bill was weighed down with social issues like ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ and funding for abortions at military clinics. These policies put social change ahead of the well-being of our men and women in uniform.”
Lindsay Nothern, Crapo’s spokesman, said the senator wants a complete review of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and that a vote on the plan shouldn’t be tied to military spending. Nothern said Crapo could support changing policy on gays in the military if the leaders of different branches of the military support a change. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen have asked Congress to get rid of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
Nothern said Crapo would also favor a broader discussion of changes to federal immigration laws, rather than passing the DREAM Act. The legislation would allow young people to stay in the U.S. if they came to the U.S. before their 16th birthday and have lived in the country for more than five years to gain legal status if they are admitted to college or join the military.
Nothern said Democrats are trying to tack on big proposals during the lame duck session before new members of Congress are sworn in. “We should slow down and debate this,” Nothern told IdahoReporter.com. “Why do these issues wait until the 11th hour?”
On Wednesday, Democratic Rep. Walt Minnick voted in favor of a different version of the DREAM Act that passed the House. Both Minnick and Congressman-elect Raul Labrador, who defeated Minnick in the November election, did not respond to requests for comment. Illegal immigration was a divisive issue in the race between Labrador and Minnick, with Minnick running several ads criticizing Labrador’s comments on the issue. In 2007, Labrador expressed support for the DREAM Act, but he later said he supports the concept of the plan, but not the actual legislation.
Rep. Mike Simpson voted against the House version of the DREAM Act.