Efforts to open the door for DREAMers -- undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children -- to serve in the military were squashed in Congress Thursday evening. The Republican-led House voted to strip a measure included in this year's National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would have pushed the secretary of defense to consider allowing some undocumented DREAMers to serve in the military.
Not long after last fall's midterm elections, there was some chatter among congressional Republicans that President Obama had made a terrible mistake acting on immigration policy through executive actions. GOP officials not only vehemently disagreed with the White House's policy, they also said the president was cutting Republicans off prematurely.
The argument was simple: maybe a Republican-led Congress would have at least tried to work with the president on a bipartisan deal, if only Obama had given lawmakers a chance instead of acting unilaterally.
The argument was always absurd -- the GOP-led House has had years to work constructively on the issue; it's refused -- but given yesterday's developments, it seems painfully obvious that last fall's chatter was a bad joke.
As msnbc's Amanda Sakuma's report makes clear, the proposal itself was actually quite modest. The measure was written by Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.), a Marine veteran, and would have simply urged Pentagon officials to reevaluate existing policy when it comes to Dream Act kids' possible enlistment.
In other words, it wouldn't have officially changed federal policy in this area, so much as it would have asked the Defense Department to review the status quo for possible changes in the future. This, House Republicans said, was a bridge too far.
Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) pushed an amendment to strip Gallego's measure from the annual defense spending bill. It passed 221 to 202. Literally every Democrat on the floor voted against it.
The political potency of this fight is significant. Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign issued a statement soon after the vote, quoting National Political Director Amanda Renteria: "If these courageous young men and women want to serve, they should be honored and celebrated, not discriminated against. Hillary Clinton is committed to comprehensive immigration reform to strengthen families and our country. While we keep up the pressure for comprehensive action, allowing DREAMers to serve in the military is the right step forward."
Evidently, the Republican-led House disagrees. GOP presidential candidates should probably come up with a position on this, because they'll be pressed for an answer soon.