OLYMPIA, Wash. — OLYMPIA — Top Democrats in Olympia admonished Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom on Monday for not doing more to save the Dream Act this session and for suggesting Senate Democrats were to blame.
Tom, D-Medina, who was interviewed for a Sunday story in the Yakima Herald-Republic, said the bill to make foreign-born students without documentation eligible for state need grants would not get a vote this session. House Bill 1817 had strong bipartisan support, passing the House 77 to 20, but languished in the Republican-controlled Senate Higher Education Committee.
Tom, a supporter of the bill and member of the committee, said Democrats were to blame for not accepting the chairmanship of that committee when it was offered in January by the Majority Coalition Caucus. As a result, Sen. Barbara Bailey, R-Oak Harbor, an opponent of the bill, was made chairwoman.
Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle, who was originally offered the position, said in a statement that she was “incredulous” of Tom’s comments.
“If he didn’t want to lead, he shouldn’t have asked to be the leader,” Kohl-Welles said. “Instead of wringing his hands, Sen. Tom should be rolling up his sleeves and persuading the committee chair he appointed to move the bill he claims he supports.”
Tom’s comments came in the midst of speculation that a rarely implemented parliamentary procedure, known as the 9th Order, could be used by a majority of senators to pull the bill to the floor for a vote. Although Tom helped deploy the 9th Order last year with Senate Republicans to pass their budget, he said something like that wouldn’t happen this session.
Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, the sponsor of the Senate version of the Dream Act bill and the man who would have been majority leader, accused Tom of shirking his responsibilities.
“He should give the Senate the chance to vote on a bill its members favor, not hide behind the skirts of his committee chair,” Murray said in a prepared statement.
Without citing names, Murray said there were 10 members of the majority caucus who had persuaded their seatmates in the House to vote for the bill before it was handed over to the Senate.
“This kind of bipartisanship is exactly what Sen. Tom claimed his majority coalition would be all about, but rather than move forward on a bipartisan bill, they’re trying to kill it,” Murray said.