House GOP leadership is having “discussions” on whether to bring a limited immigration reform bill to a vote on the House floor. Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said on Tuesday there has been talk about scheduling a separate floor vote on the ENLIST Act after Republican leadership blocked the bill from coming to the floor as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act — a defense policy bill.
The bill, introduced by Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.), would allow undocumented immigrants who entered the country before they were 15 years old to join the military. After their service, these immigrants would be eligible to apply for a green card — and eventually U.S. citizenship — if they were honorably discharged.
“We have supported it in the past, but trying to do this on the the National Defense Authorization Act bill seems to us to be an inappropriate place to do it,” Boehner said.
When asked whether Republicans planned to allow a standalone vote on the ENLIST Act on the House floor, Boehner said, “There have been discussions about that.” Boehner’s comments came as House Republican leaders were poised to formally block Denham’s measure from getting a vote on the NDAA, which sets policy for the Pentagon. Denham testified Tuesday afternoon in front of the House Rules Committee to urge a vote on the ENLIST Act.
He emphasized that his measure was ruled in order last year, meaning it could have gotten a vote then, and he withdrew only to channel his efforts toward a broader immigration reform push. Denham indicated that he had not been given an explanation on why his legislation would be blocked from a vote as of earlier Tuesday.
Though he is aware that his plans to attach his legislation to the Pentagon bill were set to fail, Denham said he will continue to push the issue to try to secure a vote on the House floor sometime this year.
“Until we have a date certain that it’s going to be on the floor, I’m going to present it at every opportunity,” Denham told reporters Monday evening.
House Republicans have been skeptical of moving forward on immigration reform with Boehner repeatedly saying the conference does not trust President Barack Obama to enforce the legislation. There is also strong conservative opposition to comprehensive immigration reform in the House.
Obama administration officials signaled Monday that they are considering administrative action that would work around Congress to accomplish the goal of Denham’s legislation.
Jessica Wright, the Pentagon’s acting undersecretary for personnel and readiness, testified in a Senate hearing in Chicago that the option is under consideration, according to WBEZ, a local public radio station. She indicated that the decision could come by the end of the summer, according to the report.
Though the prospect of executive action — particularly on immigration — has irked congressional Republicans, Denham said Tuesday that he was open to it on his measure.
He said he believes the Pentagon has the ability to enact the provisions of his bill “today,” particularly if the U.S. military “takes the position that they want the best and brightest and these men and women fit that criteria.”
“As a matter of military readiness and national defense, if the Department of Defense changes its criteria, that is something that I would welcome,” Denham said at a news conference Tuesday alongside several young undocumented immigrants who said they wanted to serve in the armed forces.
Denham’s measure has faced considerable criticism from some conservatives. Not only do some GOP lawmakers oppose the policy on its merits — believing that it amounts to amnesty — but they are against the idea of attaching it to a must-pass bill such as the NDAA.
“It is unthinkable that this amnesty measure would be pushed at a time when 30,000 American soldiers are facing layoffs,” said Stephen Miller, a spokesman for Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.). He was referring to a May 12 report from the Army Times that found almost 30,000 troops will need to be removed from the active rolls in the next 17 months. - To read more articles from The Politico, click here
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