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Immigration Fight Could Return to House This Month

Denham will try again to include in this year's defense bill a pathway to legal status for undocumented immigrants who serve in the armed forces. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy opened his Friday memo to House members regarding May's legislative agenda by quoting Steve Jobs and praising Republicans for the victories they've overseen in the first 100 days of the 114th Congress.  

But GOP success stories may be overshadowed later this month when Republicans again face one of the most politically dangerous and unforgiving issues for the party: immigration. In considering the fiscal 2016 National Defense Authorization Act, members could see a repeat of last year's meltdown over Rep. Jeff Denham's plans to offer as an amendment his so-called ENLIST Act, which would provide a legal-status pathway to certain undocumented immigrants in exchange for military service.  

In 2013, Denham, R-Calif., sought a vote  on the ENLIST Act as an amendment to the fiscal 2014 NDAA, but agreed to withdraw it at the request of leadership and Judiciary Chairman Robert W. Goodlatte, R-Va.  

A year later, the controversy surrounding immigration policy and possible overhaul legislation became so untenable that by the time the fiscal 2015 NDAA came to the floor for consideration, leaders ruled the ENLIST Act as a non-germane amendment, bowing to threats from House Republicans that the underlying bill would go down if the language was included.  

This year, Denham tells CQ Roll Call he is working with leadership to ensure his amendment gets made in order during floor debate, which could happen within weeks. If not, Denham wants to see that his proposal is considered in some other capacity, perhaps as a standalone measure, or following a vote on a border-security bill sponsored by Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul, R-Texas. That bill stalled earlier this year.  

The all-night NDAA markup that lasted to early dawn Thursday raised red flags for the House Republican Conference's anti-immigration-overhaul contingent.  

The panel adopted an amendment expressing the sense of the House that the Defense secretary should review whether undocumented immigrations eligible for President Barack Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program are also eligible for military enlistment.  

Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, who has in the past three NDAA iterations forced floor votes to strip funding for DACA, slammed the amendment as one that "encourages the Secretary of Defense to find ways to enlist illegal immigrants granted amnesty under the President's illegal and unconstitutional" DACA program. The president's order stays the deportations of certain undocumented immigrants brought into the country illegally by their parents.  

Read McCarthy's full memo below, which promises May floor action on a bill to reauthorize expiring provisions of the Patriot Act, legislation to put a congressional review process in place for any nuclear deal with Iran, an extension of the Highway Trust Fund and the next appropriations bill.

MEMORANDUM TO:                         House Republicans FROM:                  Kevin McCarthy DATE:                    May 1, 2015 SUBJECT:             May Agenda "Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower."  – Steve Jobs I want to start by thanking you all for the hard work you put into making April – and our first 100 days –successful. With your help, things are different in Washington:
  • In our first 100 days, we’ve passed 62 bills, which more than doubled the 25 passed in the first 100 days of the 113th Congress and is twice as many as the 31 passed in the 112th Congress.
  • Of these bills, eight have gone on to pass the Senate. All eight of those bills have been signed into law.
  • To top it off, our committees have been more efficient. The 40-year historical average of bills passed out of committee is 6.6 percent. In this Congress, we are at 7.6 percent compared to 3.9 percent in the 113thCongress and 3.4 percent in the 112th Congress.
This is the second most productive first 100 days under Republican control in modern history Throughout April, we demonstrated once again to the American people that we can deliver on our promise to protect freedom, promote opportunity, and demand accountability through passage of:
  • Nine bills to rein in the IRS and ensure fair treatment for all Americans – most of which received unanimous support – so that hardworking American taxpayers won’t be unjustly targeted for their political beliefs.
  • Nine bills to promote financial independence and preserve consumer choice – all of which received significant bipartisan support – so that the hardworking Americans have the opportunity to succeed.
  • Death tax repeal so that Washington doesn’t add to the hardship of losing a loved one.
  • Permanent state and local sales tax deduction so that the tax burden on hard working American taxpayers is reduced.
  • Two bills to protect our national computer networks from growing cyber threats – each of which garnered more than 300 votes – so that the government and private businesses can share vital information.
  • Funding to house and train our military and ensure that we can meet the growing health care needs of our nation’s veterans so that our military receive the support they need and our veterans receive the care they deserve.
  • Funding to safely maintain our nuclear weapons stockpile and provide for critical infrastructure projects so that we are prepared for any uncertainty in the 21st century.
  • balanced Budget Conference Report so that our children can have the opportunity to invest in their future instead of paying for our past.
Looking ahead to May, we will work to aggressively pursue policies focused on bolstering national security, preventing job-killing over-regulation, and modernizing our government and economy to meet the opportunities and the challenges of the 21st century. May 12th – 15th | National Security Keeping America Safe and Strong We will kick off the week completing consideration of H.R. 1732, the Regulatory Integrity Protection Act of 2015 (Shuster). It is critical that Congress reaffirms the federal-state partnership that has been successfully regulating our nation’s water for more than four decades. Without our intervention, the Administration’s push to significantly expand regulatory control over water – including seasonal runoff or even small ponds on private property – will have disastrous economic and regulatory impacts for every business or citizen that owns property where standing water can be found. This rule is a threat to both freedom and opportunity as the Administration’s encroachment gives us even less space to live and improve our lives. The House will then turn to keeping our nation safe through three critical measures:
  • H.R. 1735, the Fiscal Year 2016 National Defense Authorization Act (Thornberry). This is the primary legislative vehicle for Congress to meet its constitutional obligation to “provide for the common defense.” This year’s NDAA advances the vital funding and authorities that America’s military requires to act as a global leader and protect our national security interests. It ensures that our armed forces can meet the challenges they face from an aggressive Russia and an expansionist Iran to terrorist threats in the Middle East and beyond. This year’s NDAA also initiates a process of much needed reforms within the Department of Defense, including acquisition reform and tackling wasteful and inefficient spending.
  • H.R. 1191, the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015, which is currently being debated in the Senate. This bill ensures that Congress and the American people have their rightful say in reviewing any agreement on Iran’s nuclear program. The Administration has been clear that it intends to not only quickly implement a deal – unilaterally lifting hard-won sanctions that forced Iran to the negotiating table – but that the President has no intention to submit any deal to Congress for a vote. It is essential that we do everything we can to prevent the President from providing across-the-board sanctions relief during the mandated Congressional review period, after which Congress would have the opportunity to offer a strong vote of disapproval in the event that a bad deal is reached.
  • H.R. 2048, the USA Freedom Act (Sensenbrenner). Developed in coordination with Chairmen Goodlatte and Nunes, this bill enhances Americans' civil liberties protections and increases transparency for both American businesses and the government while ensuring that the U.S. Intelligence Community has the necessary tools to protect the homeland from a wide range of foreign terrorist threats.
May 18th – 21st | Innovation Building a 21st Century Economy Innovation and an entrepreneurial spirit are woven into our identity as Americans. We are the pioneers that always look beyond to the next frontier. From sending a man to the moon to leading the internet revolution, the world has always looked to America to lead into the future. And time and again, we have delivered that and much more. American-born advancements have shaped every aspect of our modern world. Our smartphones—which evolve daily—have enabled instant global communication and a more robust exchange of ideas and knowledge. Our children and grandchildren have the chance for longer and healthier lives because of breakthroughs in medical technologies and drug treatments. Cutting edge processes have turned the United States into a leader in energy production, while better data and advanced weather warning systems hold the promise of saving lives from natural disasters. But the truth is, the next great medicine, energy source, or communication platform won’t be stamped “made in Washington” on the bottom. Our greatest asset—and the biggest driver of American innovation—is the American people, and we need laws that support and enable the American people instead of regulations that hold them back. Innovation is essential to achieving and maintaining economic prosperity in this increasingly competitive world. Yet our place as the most innovative nation on earth cannot be taken for granted. We must stay focused on promoting growth and expanding opportunities for the next great idea. In that vein, we will start in May with what I hope will be an ongoing push towards advancing science and technology with consideration of:
  • H.R. 880, the American Research and Competitiveness Act of 2015 (Brady) to simplify and make the research & development tax credit permanent.
  • The U.S. Commercial Space Act to facilitate a pro-growth environment for the developing commercial space industry. By encouraging private sector investment and creating more stable and predictable regulatory conditions, we can ensure American leadership in space and foster the development of advanced space technologies.
  • H.R. 1806, the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act (L. Smith) to provide greater opportunity for American innovation and competitiveness by reforming federal science agencies and prioritizing basic research and fundamental scientific discovery.
  • H.R. 1561, the Weather Research and Forecasting Innovation Act (Lucas) to prioritize NOAA research on a focused program for improvement in weather forecasting and prediction of high impact weather events and to expand commercial opportunities for the provision of weather data.
  • H.R. 1119, the Research and Development Efficiency Act (Comstock) to establish a working group under the National Science and Technology Council to streamline federal regulations on research and in research universities.
  • H.R. 1156, the International Science and Technology Cooperation Act (Lipinski) to establish a body under the National Science and Technology Council to coordinate international partnerships that strengthen U.S. science and technology.
  • H.R. 1162, the Science Prize Competitions Act (Beyer) to remove bureaucratic obstacles and encourage federal science agencies to partner with private organizations on science prize competitions aimed at addressing important national problems.
  • H.R. 1158, the DOE Lab Modernization & Technology Transfer Act (Hultgren) to enable the Department of Energy’s national laboratories to work more efficiently and effectively with the private sector on R&D projects for scientific innovations.
  • H.R. 874, the American Super Computing Leadership Act (Hultgren) to authorize the Department of Energy to develop the next generation of high performance computing facilities that will keep the U.S. at the forefront of scientific research and support the nuclear weapons stockpile stewardship mission.
May will also bring our next funding bill, the Fiscal Year 2016 Legislative Branch Appropriations Act (T. Graves) and we will need to act on the impending expiration of the authorities under the Highway Trust Fund. Additionally, given that 38 million American jobs are tied to trade, we will continue to lay the groundwork for the Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015 (Ryan) and a robust 21st Century trade agenda. I also remain committed to completing H.R. 36, the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (Franks) and H.R. 5, the Student Success Act (Kline) . Exact timing for consideration of these bills will be relayed as soon as possible. I am proud of what we have accomplished so far and look forward to the good work we will continue to do. We should continue our work to create a 21st century government and economy with optimism because we know that our policies actually help people and give every American the freedom and opportunity to live the American Dream. Finally, in honor of Mother’s Day on May 10th, let’s see who can be the first to correctly answer this month’s trivia question:  In what year was Mother’s Day established in the U.S. and by which President?
  Related: McCarthy Defends First 100 Days, Previews What’s Ahead The 114th: CQ Roll Call's Guide to the New Congress Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call in your inbox or on your iPhone.