Trojan Horse threat to American national security?
Republicans are eyeing an upcoming government spending bill as their best leverage for pausing the Obama administration’s refugee resettlement program in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in Paris.
Some GOP lawmakers are already saying they’ll vote against the catchall spending bill, known as an omnibus, if it doesn’t block funds for refugee resettlement for people coming from Syria and nearby regions in the Middle East.
“I think that we have to exert maximum leverage. If we don’t, I think it is national security malpractice,” said Rep. Matt Salmon (R-Ariz.), a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus.
The House passed legislation before the Thanksgiving recess to prevent any refugees from Syria or Iraq from entering the U.S. unless the government can certify that none of them pose national security threats.
But with President Obama threatening to issue a veto and Senate Democrats indicating they will filibuster it next week, Republicans are looking at the omnibus spending bill as another option.
Current funding runs out on Dec. 11, with a government shutdown hanging in the balance.
“If the president stops this bill, then we’ll have to deal with getting his attention on funding,” Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.) said of the House’s refugee certification measure. “It’s the only must-pass legislation left.”
A third of the 246-member House GOP conference is calling for a policy rider to prevent federal funds from going toward admitting refugees from Syria and neighboring countries unless the government can ensure the resettlement program could not be co-opted by would-be terrorists.
Seventy-four House Republicans signed onto a letter spearheaded by Rep. Brian Babin (R-Texas) this week urging GOP leaders to include such language in the omnibus spending bill.
“We cannot allow the refugee program to serve as a Trojan Horse threat to American national security,” the lawmakers wrote in the letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.).
The Obama administration maintains that it already thoroughly screens refugees over the course of what is typically a nearly two-year process for each applicant. President Obama is standing by his plan to allow 10,000 Syrian refugees into the U.S. next year.
However, FBI Director James Comey acknowledged in a hearing last month that certain “gaps” remain in screening refugees coming from war-torn Syria.
Talk of using a government spending bill as leverage to modify the refugee program bears some resemblance to the fight exactly one year ago when many Republicans wanted to block funds for President Obama’s sweeping executive actions on immigration. That led to the “Cromnibus,” which funded all of the federal government for a year but only provided two months’ worth of funding for the Department of Homeland Security.
In the end, Republicans ultimately acquiesced to funding the department without conditions, as the executive actions remain stuck in the court system.