Buck McKeon: Defense bill won’t include the ENLIST Act

Some House Republicans were pushing to include legislation in the defense authorization bill that would allow Dreamers to gain legal permanent residency if they served…

Alina Cortes (second from right), speaks to reporters as she stands with other Dreamer calling for legislation that would allow them to serve in the U.S. military on Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2013, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Some House Republicans were pushing to include legislation in the defense authorization bill that would allow Dreamers to gain legal permanent residency if they served in the U.S. military.

But that plan crumbled Friday when House Armed Services Chairman Buck McKeon announced he will not include the bill, known as the ENLIST Act, in the National Defense Authorization Act.

“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,” McKeon said in a statement.

McKeon said he made his decision after hearing from members “on and off the committee on both sides of this issue.” He also praised Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.), author of the ENLIST Act, and Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.), who introduced a similar bill last year, for “responsibly raising the matter.”

Jeff Denham

“This is an important issue that I know will continue to be debated going forward,” he added.

SEE ALSO: Steve King: Dreamers should be deported, not allowed to join military

McKeon’s announcement came after a wave a criticism from immigration hardliners like Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), who said he would rather deport Dreamers than allow them to enlist in the military.

“As soon as they raise their hand and say ‘I’m unlawfully present in the United States,’ we’re not going take your oath into the military, but we’re going to take your deposition and we have a bus for you to Tijuana,” King said in an interview with Breitbart News. “That’s the law.”

On Friday, Denham said he would continue pressing for a vote on his bill.

Denhman’s bill has support from some House Democrats, including Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) who is a co-sponsor of the bill. In an email sent to VOXXI, Gutierrez spokesman Douglas Rivlin said the Democratic congressman “expects that any bill that allows the undocumented to enlist and that actually moves forward in the House will include or be amended to include those with DACA.”

“There is a pool of young people who want to serve their country and support their families by joining the military and Rep. Gutierrez feels the country would be foolish to reject them,” Rivlin said.

SEE ALSO: Colorado Republican: Let deferred action dreamers join the military

Gutierrez spoke about his support for Denham’s bill during a conference call with reporters on Friday. He said the bill “serves as a basis” for Republicans and Democrats to continue working together to reach an agreement on a broader immigration reform bill.

“We’re going to continue to talk and have conversations because in the end, our goal is to get legislation passed in the House of Representatives … so we can work with the Senate and we can ultimately get a bill to the president’s desk,” he said.

Gutierrez added that he thinks it would be “an immediate setback” if Republicans block the ENLIST Act. However, he said he doesn’t think it would reflect what Republicans in the House can realistically accomplish on immigration reform this year.

“I believe they are working through their own internal processes,” he said of House Republicans. “I believe there’s still a good degree of support [for immigration reform] from members, although not a majority.”

SEE ALSO: Gutierrez: If no immigration reform passes by July, Obama should act

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