Armed Services Chairman Buck McKeon: Defense Bill No Place for Amnesty

House Armed Services committee chairman Rep. Buck McKeon (R-CA) says a controversial immigration proposal shouldn't be in the upcoming Department of Defense authorization bill, a new blow to the effort to insert it into the bill.

In an interview on Laura Ingraham’s radio program, McKeon said the NDAA is no place for the ENLIST Act – a bill from Rep. Jeff Denham (R-CA) that would grant amnesty to illegal alien DREAMers if they enlist in the U.S. armed forces.

While McKeon told Ingraham that yes, he is a cosponsor to the ENLIST Act, he said, “but it’s not supposed to be on our military, our defense bill. We’re not going to have it on our defense bill.”

McKeon hinted that he would fight to kill any amendments to the NDAA that would include the ENLIST Act or similar immigration language like a bill from Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO), but didn’t outright state he would kill such efforts.

“Somebody may try to attach it, but we do not have the jurisdiction [in the Armed Services Committee to handle immigration matters],” McKeon said. “That should be discussed in a full debate by the Judiciary Committee. I don’t want to do anything to jeopardize our national security.”

Ingraham and McKeon discussed the actual ENLIST Act policy and how McKeon said he is “in favor of a discussion about that policy but not on putting it on our defense bill. I don’t think that’s where it belongs.”

Ingraham made a case against the ENLIST Act policy itself, saying that letting illegal aliens take jobs in the military is taking jobs away from American citizens who want to enlist. Citing a friend from the ROTC young officers’ program, Ingraham said, “Only 25 percent of those who have gone through the ROTC program actually have an opportunity to get a full-time commission in the U.S. military today – so my point is the opportunities for full-time commissions for American citizens are shrinking.” If the ENLIST Act became law, she said, it would take military positions away from Americans.

“I understand exactly your point,” McKeon said in response, adding that he thinks “that’s why I say we should have a discussion on it.”

McKeon signaled the effort may have again run afoul of House Judiciary Committee chairman Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), who killed an effort to attach the provision last year after a dramatic floor fight.

“It should be done in the Judiciary Committee; it should be done on the floor,” McKeon said.

The comments are a significant blow to the effort, but do not mean the push for the legislation is finished. Majority Leader Eric Cantor officially backed the proposal in remarks to Breitbart News, and Denham has said he will push to bring it to a vote whether or not it ends up in the bill reported by the Armed Services panel.


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