WASHINGTON — The House on Wednesday passed the so-called Dream Act to give foreign-born youngsters brought to the U.S. illegally a shot at legal status.
The victory was expected to be fleeting, however, because Senate Democrats appeared unable to muster the 60 votes needed to advance it past opposition by Republicans and a handful of their own members.
The legislation was aimed at hundreds of thousands of young illegal immigrants who were brought to the U.S. before the age of 16, who have been in the U.S. for five years and who have graduated from high school or gained an equivalency degree.
They would have a chance to gain legal status if they joined the military or attended college.
Florida reflected the partisan divide in Congress, except for three Miami Republicans who voted for the legislation: Reps. Lincoln and Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.
Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart blamed Democrats of not fixing "our broken immigration system" but said "those who stand to benefit from this bill include thousands of young adults who were raised in our country and really know no other country but America, they simply wish to pursue the American dream and have the opportunity to study, to work hard and to serve in our armed forces. They are exactly the type of people that we want in this, the United States of America."
Several Florida Republicans released statements condemning the legislation as "amnesty."
Activists in Florida have been holding demonstrations, including a vigil planned for tonight in Tampa, to urge Republican Sen. George LeMieux to support the legislation. But LeMieux has echoed calls for tougher border security.
Also in Congress
Social Security payment rejected: A proposal to provide 54 million Social Security recipients with a lump sum payment of $250, intended as a modest boost in difficult economic times, was blocked Wednesday by Republican-led opposition in the House and Senate.
Medicare cuts: The Senate on Wednesday agreed unanimously to postpone for another year a steep cut in what Medicare pays doctors. The $19 billion deal, which is expected to be approved by the House, would spare physicians who care for the elderly a 25 percent cut in their fees, and head off what many saw as a disastrous blow to the massive federal health insurance program.
Vote on gays in military delayed: Senate Democrats put off a vote on legislation that would repeal the military's ban on openly gay troops so that more time can be spent to try to strike a deal with Republicans.
House Democrats pass budget bill: The legislation would freeze the budgets of most Cabinet departments and fund the war in Afghanistan for another year. It would cap the agencies' annual operating budgets at the $1.2 trillion approved for the recently finished budget year and includes $159 billion to prosecute the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Judge impeached: The Senate impeached U.S. District Judge G. Thomas Porteous of Louisiana, making him just the eighth federal judge in history to be removed by Congress. House prosecutors said gambling and drinking problems led Porteous, 63, a New Orleans native who was appointed to the federal bench by President Bill Clinton in 1994, to accept cash and other favors from attorneys and bail bondsmen with business before his court. He also was accused of lying to Congress during his judicial confirmation and filing for bankruptcy under a false name.
Times staff writer Alex Leary contributed to this report.