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Sen. Harry Reid vows to advance DREAM Act, 'don't ask, don't tell' legislation

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced late Wednesday that the Senate will proceed with votes in the lame-duck session on two Democratic priority issues -- repealing the ban on gays serving openly in the military, and legislation to allow a path to citizenship for young illegal immigrants.

Reid's decision to pursue both items indicates Democrats are unwilling to cede their top issues despite overwhelming Republican gains in the midterm elections. Both issues face opposition from Republicans.

Reid said the vote on repealing "don't ask, don't tell" will be brought forward with the Defense authorization bill after Congress returns from the Thanksgiving week recess.

"We need to repeal this discriminatory policy so that any American who wants to defend our country can do so," Reid said.

The majority leader also said the immigration bill, known as the DREAM Act, would be brought up as a stand-alone measure. In the past, the measure had failed to advance as an amendment to broader legislation.

The immigration bill would allow young people who came to this country illegally as children to be offered a path to citizenship if they attend college or join the military. Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) is a chief sponsor.

"Last time we sought to bring up this bill, all Republicans blocked our effort, even though many have been supporters of the DREAM Act in the past," Reid said. "I hope that our Republican colleagues will join me, Sen. Durbin and Democrats in passing this important piece of legislation, now that we have a stand-alone version and that political season is over."

Congress is expected to be in recess next week for the Thanksgiving holiday. Lawmakers are scheduled to return the following week to continue a complicated lame-duck session that includes debate over several must-pass bills, including an extension of expiring tax cuts and legislation to fund the government.

The newly-elected members begin their terms in January.

lmascaro@tribune.com

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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