Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOn The Money — Democrats tee up Senate spending battles with GOP The Memo: Powell ended up on losing side of GOP fight Treasury to use extraordinary measures despite debt ceiling hike MORE (R-Ky.) is setting up the Senate for a an early 2016 fight over the acceptance of refugees in the wake of the Paris terror attacks.
Don Stewart, a spokesman for the Republican leader, said that McConnell "confirmed for the Speaker that the Senate will take up and consider legislation concerning the security of the refugee admission process, in particular, refugees from Syria, in the first quarter of next year."
It's unclear what specific proposal the Senate would debate, though McConnell placed a House-passed bill that would add new security and screening requirements on refugees from Iraq or Syria on the Senate's calendar earlier this year.
The move would allow it to get floor time and a potential vote, though nothing has been scheduled.
The comments come as conservative senators have expressed frustration that an end-of-the-year spending bill didn't include a "pause" in the acceptance of refugees after such a measure passed the House with a veto-proof majority, including nearly 50 Democrats.
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) suggested that exclusion of refugee language, as well as separate immigration fights, were some of the reasons he would vote against the omnibus.
Sen. John CornynJohn CornynCornyn raises more than M for Senate GOP Is the Biden administration afraid of trade? The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - After high drama, Senate lifts debt limit MORE (R-Texas) directed questions about what specific bill could be taken up to McConnell, but suggested that senators could revisit the refugee battle next year.
"The House has passed legislation that we could take up independently of this, so I think there's an opportunity for us to do that," he said. "Obviously this was a negotiation and Democrats wouldn't accept everything we wanted and we wouldn't accept everything they wanted."
But an attempt to move the House-passed bill would likely face a stiff fight in the upper chamber, where Senate Democratic leadership has pledged to block it.
"The problem is not with refugees,” Senate Minority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidDemocrats brace for tough election year in Nevada The Memo: Biden's horizon is clouded by doubt Fight over Biden agenda looms large over Virginia governor's race MORE (D-Nev.) told reporters last month. “I don’t think we’ll be dealing with it over here.”
House Republicans had suggested that McConnell had made a commitment to move refugee legislation, with House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas) telling reporters that the Kentucky Republican "has given us assurances that he would move the bill separately in the Senate when we return in January.”