Cantor won't allow immigration vote on defense bill

Greg Nash

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) will not allow a vote next week on legislation that would grant legal status to young illegal immigrants who serve in the military, according to a spokesman.

The announcement came hours after The Hill reported that Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.) on Friday would file an amendment offering the legal status to illegal immigrants to the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The amendment is known as the ENLIST Act.

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“No proposed ENLIST amendments to NDAA will be made in order,” Doug Heye told The Hill via email.

That means members will not be allowed to debate or vote on Denham's measure when the defense bill is on the House floor next week.

Cantor's primary election opponent, Dave Brat, has been hammering the majority leader on immigration issues. And House GOP leaders have come under pressure from their own members not to bend on moving immigration reform legislation.

Denham attempted to include the immigration measure in last year’s defense budget blueprint but withdrew it in deference to colleagues who did not want the politically divisive issue added to the must-pass legislation.

The California Republican is expected to win reelection, but he represents a district that is 40 percent Hispanic.

The full House could take up the defense bill as soon as Tuesday.

Denham had express confidence that his amendment would make it into the budget blueprint.

“I know we have the votes to pass it,” he told The Hill in a phone interview. “We’re where we need to be for a floor vote.” 

Conservative groups, including Heritage Action and the Madison Project, publicly oppose Denham’s proposed amendment.