Committee Chairman Deals Blow to Immigration Push

The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee says a proposal to allow illegal aliens to receive permanent legal residency by enlisting in the military won't be in the underlying text of a must-pass defense bill, dealing a serious blow to a push to enact the immigration measure.

“I do not intend to include the ‘ENLIST’ Act in the proposed National Defense Authorization Act that I will submit to the Armed Services Committee next month. I have reached this conclusion without regard to my views on the underlying policy, but because I do not believe that the Chairman’s mark should be the original venue for this debate,” Rep. Buck McKeon, the chairman of HASC, said in a statement.

“Over the past several days I have heard from Members on and off the committee on both sides of this issue. They have made sound arguments and raised valid concerns, and my colleagues and friends Congressmen Denham and Coffman deserve a great deal of credit for responsibly raising the matter. This is an important issue that I know will continue to be debated going forward,” he added.

While closing a significant door for sophomore Rep. Jeff Denham (R-CA), the bill's author who is heading the push, the proposal is far from dead.

For instance, Denham said Friday Majority Leader Eric Cantor is “very” supportive of his efforts.

“Yes. Very,” Rep. Jeff Denham (R-CA) told Breitbart News when asked if Cantor was supporting his push. “He has told me to work through the process. I'm actively getting as many co-authors as I can. I'd still like to bring my bill as a stand-alone bill to the floor,” he added.

Cantor, who acquiesced to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte in killing a 2013 effort to pass the proposal after a dramatic floor struggle, could help Denham overcome vigorous opposition from immigration hawks, including key committee members.

But a Cantor aide downplayed the Virginia Republican's support.

“This policy issue is still being discussed at the committee level, and no commitments have been made on a path forward or the process if it were to move forward,” the aide said.

As Breitbart News reported Tuesday, Denham had been quietly working to insert the text of his bill into the NDAA, which could be on the House floor as early as next month.

The effort has prompted swift push-back from immigration hawks worried the language could open an immigration Pandora's box, paving the way for a broader bill, while key members of the Armed Services Committee have expressed reservations about including a hot-button social issue in one of the last “consensus” bills that pass Congress every year.

Facing strong headwinds even before McKeon issued his statement, Denham told reporters Friday he is seeking to bring the bill forward through other vehicles as well.

“I'm confident that my bill, coming to the floor, will have the overwhelming support of both conferences,” Denham said.

If the bill isn't inserted into the “base” NDAA bill and doesn't get a vote on its own, Denham will try to offer it as an amendment to the NDAA bill to be voted on on the House floor, he said.

In the 2013 push to offer the bill as an amendment to NDAA, Denham technically withdrew his own amendment after Cantor acquiesced to Goodlatte. But not this time, Denham warned.

“It was ruled in order last time, and I withdrew it. So, I expect the same thing would happen this time, only this time I will not withdraw the issue, I will make sure we bring it up for a vote,” he said.

McKeon vowed in an interview Friday he had never promised to include the immigration language and that he briefed committee members at a closed-door meeting Thursday to assure them no commitments had been made to Denham.

“I don't operate that way,” McKeon said.

Although he is a co-sponsor of Denham's bill, McKeon said he hadn't read it yet and had endorsed the measure because of his friendship with Denham, a fellow Californian. Denham recently approached him about including the language in NDAA and McKeon instructed him to build support for the measure, he said.

“Jeff talked to me about it, and what I told him is, he's a legislator, I says 'you go out and work the process. You build up support. And if you can get enough support that it carries the day. That's how it works.' He periodically tells me, 'well I got this guy, and I got this guy.' I say, that's the way it works, keep it up,” McKeon told Breitbart News.  


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