Boehner: Defense bill isn’t right place for immigration vote

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Tuesday defended a decision by GOP leaders to block an immigration reform measure when the House takes up the 2015 defense policy bill, but he left the door open to a future vote.

Boehner at a press conference called it “inappropriate” to link the proposal offering green cards to illegal immigrants who have served in the military to the defense authorization bill.

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But he didn't rule out the possibility that the immigration measure could be voted on as a stand-alone bill.

“There have been discussions about that, but no decisions,” he said.

The measure, named the Encourage New Legalized Immigrants to Start Training (ENLIST) Act, is backed by Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.), who defied party leaders and offered the bill on Monday.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s (R-Va.) office last week said that he would not allow a vote on the measure.

Boehner, acknowledged that the immigration measure had Republican support when offered by Denham last year during debate on the 2014 defense authorization bill. That year, Denham pulled his amendment after colleagues warned it could threaten passage of the Pentagon budget blueprint.

On Monday, Denham defended his decision to push forward on the measure again, noting that GOP leaders had scheduled no votes on immigration this year.

"It's May. We still haven't brought it up. So, it's up to members like me to continue to push," Denham told reporters.

Denham, who is expected to win reelection, represents a district that is 40 percent Hispanic.

The House Rules Committee is scheduled to meet on Tuesday afternoon to consider amendments to the 2015 defense bill. Denham is expected to attend and push for his amendment.

Cristina Marcos contributed.