Here we go again with the shutdown fight…..
House GOP leaders are moving to avoid a big end-of-year spending showdown with Democrats over national security by putting forth a bipartisan plan that would make it tougher for some foreigners to travel to the U.S. without a visa.
The legislation, aimed at overhauling the visa waiver program in the wake of the Paris terrorist attacks, is expected to be rolled out this week ahead of a vote early next week.
It may also be included in the omnibus spending bill Congress needs to pass by Dec. 11 to avert a government shutdown, senior GOP lawmakers and aides told The Hill.
Attaching the visa bill to the $1.1 trillion must-pass spending package likely means Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) leadership team will skip over efforts to insert into the omnibus other security-related bills that are opposed by President Obama, including one tightening screening for refugees.
“We need to solve problems, we need to fix issues and we need to win when we pick fights,” Rep. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.), the nation’s first female combat pilot and a member of the Homeland Security and Armed Services committees, told The Hill. “We need to get things across the finish line, through the House and Senate and signed by the president to actually fix a problem.”
GOP leaders are coalescing around the bill because it’s expected to have broad backing from both Republicans and Democrats and is seen as something that could win Obama’s signature. In a letter to the Republican whip team on Monday, GOP leaders signaled they expect the spending bill to move with bipartisan support and that they do not expect to win over every member of their conference.
Republicans believe a successful House vote on a standalone visa bill would send a message to voters that the GOP-controlled Congress is prioritizing national security and taking recent terrorism threats seriously. Including it in the larger spending bill would make national security a central component of the last measure the House is expected to approve this year.
The Obama administration itself has acknowledged the program poses security vulnerabilities; the White House on Monday rolled out several unilateral changes to better identify individuals who seek to harm the U.S.
Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) introduced a similar bill Tuesday, lending more bipartisan support to the strategy. Under the current waiver program, 20 million visitors per year travel to the U.S. from 38 partner countries.
The House package would lean heavily on recommendations from a recent Homeland Security Committee task force report focused on travel by terrorists and foreign fighters. Among the proposals: requiring each country participating in the visa waiver program to issue “e-passports” with chips and biometrics and to report and monitor lost or stolen passports.