House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon, R-Calif., said he will not include the “ENLIST” Act amnesty in the draft defense authorization bill he introduces. McKeon’s decision was a setback for the measure’s sponsor, Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Calif., who had been quietly trying to include it in the Chairman’s draft. Still, Denham promised to try to add the amnesty in committee or on the House floor.

The “ENLIST” Act would allow certain young illegal aliens to get legal permanent residency – the first step toward citizenship – if they joined the military. Although the measure contains a limited amnesty, like a related measure sponsored by Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo., if passed by the House it could become a Senate vehicle for S. 744, the Senate-passed comprehensive amnesty bill.

In a statement, Chairman McKeon said, “I do not intend to include the ‘ENLIST’ Act in the proposed National Defense Authorization Act that I will submit to the Armed Services Committee next month. 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.”

After Denham’s plot was exposed earlier this week, a number of pro-immigration enforcement Members fought back. Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala., who also serves on the Armed Forces Committee, circulated a letter making his colleagues aware of the plot.

After hearing McKeon’s decision, Denham told reporters, "It's very frustrating to hear controversy from members who have never served their country and don't understand the impact that immigrants have had on our freedoms."

When reporters informed Brooks about Denham’s remarks, he said “That’s bunk. Next question. Brooks later added, “There will be significant opposition that will arise if the national defense authorization bill is used as a means to give blanket amnesty to illegal aliens. And once you’ve passed the NDAA with this provision in it, who knows what the Senate would then do with it, as the Senate Gang of Eight tries to revive their amnesty legislation.”

If the “ENLIST” Act is not added to the defense authorization bill in committee, Denham will try to offer it as an amendment on the House floor. He also is seeking to move it as a stand-alone bill.

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Updated: Fri, Apr 4th 2014 @ 4:29pm EDT