Friday, December 24, 2010


by Richard Crews
Perhaps you've heard of the DREAM Act. It's the one major Obama initiative that the Republicans continued to block during the recent not-so-lame duck session of Congress. The DREAM Act is pretty hard to argue with. It would have provided for citizenship to kids who have grown up in this country (although their parents are illegal immigrants) if they are law-abiding and go to college or join the military for a couple of years. Immigration reform has a lot of sticky issues--border guards, visa checks, hiring of illegal immigrants at sub-standard wages, immigration quotas, and paths to citizenship for university students and foreigners with special skills. Unfortunately the DREAM Act got kicked down the road with the rest of the thornier immigration issues.

But overall the recent lame-duck session of Congress was very productive. An economy-stimulating tax package made it through, as did the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," and the START Treaty limiting nuclear weapons with Russia. On the other hand, although a short continuing resolution to fund the government was passed, significant battles loom ahead on passing a full budget and raising the debt ceiling--it will be interesting to see what the new Republicans in the House and Senate actually do about these when they have their boots on the ground in Washington and have to govern rather than campaign. (The Republicans since the elections have already indulged enthusiastically in earmarks--that is, directing special funding toward home-town projects--despite campaigning against this practice.)

Some activities of government proceed apace. The Environmental Protection Agency has announced their determination to move forward with stronger regulations limiting pollution under the existing legislation since they did not succeed in getting a new, stronger legislative mandate. And the new Wall Street regulations continue to evolve in implementation, as does the new universal health-care program.

Hopefully the new Congress will deal with tax reform (that is, simplification of the absurdly complicated income tax, and installation of a "VAT," a value-added tax), and reinstitution of campaign finance reform (which the Supreme Court's ridiculous decision last year in "Citizens United" left in shambles). There may even be some attempt to revise the Senate's filibuster rules.

But immigration reform is a difficult issue. For one thing there are some 13 million illegal immigrants living and working in this country; they do not pay their fair share of taxes, but they also do not get fair protection of the law. Perhaps the new Congress will deal with some of the many and difficult immigration issues, or at least will DREAM on.