By Jeremy Herb
The House had included a one-year extension of the Iraqi visas in the stopgap funding measures that it passed on Saturday and Monday, but those were rejected by the Senate.
House GOP leaders have not yet indicated whether they will take up the standalone bill to extend the visas for three months. A spokesman for House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) did not respond to a request for comment.
The program to give Iraqis who helped the U.S. government Special Immigrant Visas (SIV) began in 2007, authorizing 5,000 visas annually. A similar program for Afghans who helped the U.S. allows for 1,500 visas per year and has already been extended through 2014.
Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) had also tried last week to include a yearlong extension in the Senate’s continuing resolution (CR) as an amendment, but opted to push for a stand-alone bill when it became clear the CR wasn’t a feasible route.
The Senate had also included the visa extension in its immigration bill, which the House has not taken up.
Lawmakers argue that killing the visa program would break a promise made to Iraqis who have risked their lives to help the U.S. military.
“We made a promise to thousands of Iraqi civilians who risked their lives helping our country during a time of war and now we must honor our commitment,” Shaheen said last week.
"When you talk to people I don't think anybody would oppose this," said Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), who has pushed the bill in the House. "When somebody puts their life on the line for our country, they ought to be repaid."