McCaul: Stripping refugee language from omnibus would cost GOP votes

McCaul: Stripping refugee language from omnibus would cost GOP votes
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Multiple House Republicans would oppose a must-pass spending bill if negotiators strip new restrictions on Syrian refugees, an author of the measure said on Tuesday

“It’s an important issue to many of us and they want to see it in there,” House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaulMichael Thomas McCaulCongress must press Trump on 'extreme vetting' in practice Congress barreling toward explosive immigration fight Texas Republicans slam White House over disaster relief request MORE (R-Texas) told reporters at a breakfast briefing sponsored by The Christian Science Monitor.

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“Right now it is in the omnibus. If it’s taken out, I think it will lose votes.”

The refugee legislation passed with a veto-proof majority in the House, but its prospects have seemed much dimmer in the Senate, where Democratic Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) has boasted of his ability to kill it. The White House has vehemently opposed the refugee plan, which it claims would stunt President Obama’s efforts to bring 10,000 Syrian refugees into the United States over the next year. 

Opponents of the extra limits say that they would amount to needless roadblocks preventing already persecuted people from finding safety in America. Refugees entering the U.S. undergo a thorough vetting process that can last for up to two years, defenders say.

The controversy has raised doubts about whether the additional restrictions will remain in the spending bill this year, given the possibility that it could force a White House veto.

“I can’t say, with the negotiations, which are ongoing, whether the Syrian refugee bill will be pulled out of that,” McCaul acknowledged on Wednesday.

It remains unclear whether Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has offered any assurances to House leaders that the bill will come up as a standalone measure in the upper chamber if it is pulled from the spending bill.

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, McCaul claimed that McConnell “has given us assurances that he would move the bill separately in the Senate when we return in January.”

However, he also suggested that McConnell’s intentions were unclear.

“The only other alternative [to Republicans opposing the spending bill] that could be presented is if Mr. McConnell gave us assurances that he would bring it up in the Senate,” McCaul said. 

Concerns about Syrian refugees have spiked in recent months, following last month’s terrorist attack in Paris that killed 130 people and indications that two of the men involved in the attack entered Europe while posing as refugees.

The House measure, which received support from dozens of Democrats, would prevent refugees from Iraq and Syria from entering the country unless the U.S. government first certifies that they do not pose a threat.

“All we’re asking for is assurances that there’s a vetting process in place,” McCaul said on Wednesday.