WASHINGTON – House Republican leaders on Wednesday blocked any votes on immigration legislation, raising doubts about the prospects for election-year action on overhauling the nation's laws.
The Rules Committee voted early Wednesday against allowing votes on a measure offering citizenship to immigrants here illegally who serve in the military. The panel also rejected legislation that would have opened the U.S. military academies to young immigrants brought to the country illegally.
Republican Rep. Jeff Denham of California has pressed on the citizenship measure, and Democratic Rep. Joaquin Castro of Texas had backed the military academies measure. Both lawmakers had offered their legislation as amendments to the sweeping defense policy bill that the House is considering this week.
"I'm disappointed that expanding opportunity to all of our students to the U.S military academies is not allowed to be part of the discussion about our nation's defense readiness," Castro said in a statement.
The Senate passed a comprehensive bill last year that would have bolstered border security, remade legal worker programs and offered a path to citizenship to the estimated 11.5 million people now living here illegally. That bill remains stalled in the Republican-led House where Speaker John Boehner has attributed the inaction to distrust within GOP ranks about President Barack Obama's commitment to enforce any border restriction law.
Despite a wide coalition of business, labor, religious groups, farmers and others pushing for an immigration overhaul, many individual Republican House members who represent largely white districts have been unmoved. That's particularly true in an election year amid concerns about angering core GOP voters.
Denham's measure was widely popular among supporters of overhauling the immigration system and was seen as perhaps the likeliest area for compromise on the divisive issue.
It was co-sponsored by 50 House members, 26 Democrats and 24 Republicans. But an outspoken minority remained staunchly opposed to it.