The news that John McCain, Kay Bailey Hutchison, and Jon Kyl are now backing a scaled-back version of the DREAM Act is, frankly, infuriating. There was a time when a handful of Republican senators backing a scaled-back version of the DREAM Act would have lead to the passage of a scaled-back version of the DREAM Act. That time was 2010 when the House of Representatives was controlled by Democrats and when there were 59 Democratic senators, the overwhelming majority of whom supported the DREAM Act. If at that time three Republicans had offered to vote for a compromise, Democrats could have agreed to their proposal and it'd be a done deal.
But they didn't. And all we really learn from the new McCain/Hutchison/Kyl proposal is that they didn't have any really deep sincere public policy objections to the basic aim of the DREAM Act. They're happy to endorse something similar. Just not when the partisan agenda of the Republican Party requires them to play obstructionist. Because they don't really care about the welfare of people who were brought to the country illegally by their parents years ago. They're indifferent. So bad on them.
The question for 2012 is why are we reporting this as news? To simply steal a point my colleague John Dickerson made the other day about something else, despite the press' love for quoting senators the actions of Senate Republicans are totally irrelevant to legislative activity. For a bill to pass, it needs the agreement of Barack Obama and John Boehner. There's no way an Obama/Boehner agreement on immigration, the fiscal cliff, or anything else is going to be sunk by John McCain. Back in 2010, Boehner was totally irrelevant and marginal Senate Republicans were the whole story of everything. But here in 2012 it's the reverse. It's all about what Boehner will and won't do, and the views of marginal Senate Republicans are irrelevant.