WASHINGTON (CNN) – The chances that any significant immigration legislation will be enacted before the midterm election grew more remote on Friday, when House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's office said it would not allow debate on a narrowly crafted proposal sponsored by a fellow Republican.
President Barack Obama and Senate Democrats made a major push this week on the issue, hoping to put pressure on House Speaker John Boehner to allow a vote before the August summer break.
But Boehner and other House GOP leaders have repeatedly rejected calls to vote on a Senate-passed comprehensive immigration bill. They insist the only way the House will act is using a step by step approach.
But resistance from a majority of House conservatives to even start that process has stalled any movement on immigration, and the latest attempt illustrates the prospects for reform aren't good this year.
California Republican Rep. Jeff Denham, whose agricultural district is home to many immigrant workers, wants to add his targeted immigration measure to the defense bill next week.
His “ENLIST Act” would allow young people brought into the country illegally to join the military and gain legal status. But even before he gets the chance to offer his amendment, Cantor's office is shutting it down.
"No proposed ENLIST amendments to NDAA will be made in order," Doug Heye, a spokesman for Cantor, said in a statement.
Last month, the backlash from a group of House GOP members who said Denham's proposal amounted to "amnesty" prevented it from being considered as part of the original defense bill in committee.
House Armed Services Chairman Buck McKeon, a co-sponsor of the ENLIST act, worried the controversial amendment could become a poison pill and jeopardize the defense legislation’s passage.
On Friday, White House spokesman Jay Carney said the House would “pursue its own path in the construction of an immigration reform package.”
But he also said that the Obama administration would only support a series of bills if they achieved major overhaul of the current immigration system, and that those measures must include a path to citizenship for undocumented workers.
With fewer than three dozen legislative days left before Congress takes a month-long summer recess, the window for acting on immigration is narrow. If there is no will to take up the ENLIST act now, that doesn't bode well for any other immigration action this year.