Paul seeks to block refugees from welfare programs
© Francis Rivera

Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulLexington mayor launches bid for Congress Trump-free Kennedy Center Honors avoids politics Meet the Iran hawk who could be Trump's next secretary of State MORE (R-Ky.) is hoping to link the current fight over refugees to a housing and transportation funding bill.  

Paul, who is running for president, is offering an amendment to the fiscal year 2016 spending bill for the Department of Transportation and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to ban refugees from 34 countries or territories from getting any assistance to welfare or social programs funded by the legislation. 
 
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"Make no mistake, we have been attacked in the past by refugees or by people posing as refugees," Paul said. "I don't think we should continue adding people to the rolls of those coming from the Middle East until we absolutely know who is in our country and what their intentions are." 
 
The Kentucky Republican added that his amendment says "that we're not going to bring them here and put them on government assistance. When the poem beneath the Statue of Liberty says give me your tired, give me your poor, it didn't say come to our country and we'll put you on welfare." 
 
He has offered a separate piece of legislation that would block visas for approximately 30 high-risk countries that Paul has said have "significant jihadist movements."
 
But Paul's amendment, which has not been scheduled for a vote, could face an uphill battle to get included in the legislation. 
 
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) filed cloture on the Senate's legislation and an underlying House bill Wednesday evening. Senators are expected to wrap up their work on the legislation before they leave Washington for a week-long Thanksgiving recess. 
 
Meanwhile, the amendment is getting pushback from Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Jack Reed (D-R.I.), who spearheaded the housing-transportation legislation. Both senators said they are opposed to Paul's proposal.
 
"I look at the senator's amendment and he lists 34 countries that would be affected by his prohibition, 34 countries. They include countries like Turkey. Turkey is a NATO ally. Turkey is absolutely vital in the war against ISIS. It includes our strong ally Jordan," Collins said. 
 
"Are we saying we will not let a single person from 34 countries into our country no matter how many American lives they have saved, no matter whether or not they pose a threat to us?"