Senate

Graham, Leahy push for $1B in emergency Syrian refugee funds

A bipartisan pair of senators — including one presidential candidate — is pushing forward with an emergency spending bill to help strengthen the administration’s ability to combat the Syrian refugee crisis. 

Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) have rolled out legislation that would provide an extra $1 billion in emergency funding, mandating that the White House tell Congress within 45 days how it will use the money.   
 
{mosads}Leahy said in a statement that “the disaster in Syria dwarfs anything we have seen for decades, with millions of people uprooted and seeking safety in other countries. It is a humanitarian emergency of staggering proportions, and we need to do more. Our bill would make that possible.” 
 
While the legislation doesn’t specify how many Syrian refugees should be accepted into the United States, their funding would allow for the resettlement of up to 100,000 refugees over two years, according to Leahy’s office. 
 
The legislation comes as Congress is grappling with how to respond to the crisis and the administration’s plan to increase the number of refugees it accepts. 
 
Dozens of Senate Democrats backed a letter from Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) earlier this week calling for an emergency spending bill. That letter was spent to Leahy and Graham, as well as Sens. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) and Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), the top two members on the Appropriations Committee. 
 
But FBI Director James Comey said Thursday that there are “gaps” in the screening process for bringing Syrians into the United States. 
 
“There is risk associated of bringing anybody in from the outside, but specifically from a conflict zone like that,” he told members of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. 
 
Graham, who is running for president, quickly came out in support of accepting more Syrian refugees after a photo of a drowned Syrian child went viral and sparked international outrage earlier this year. 
 
His position pits him against not only many of his Republican colleagues, but also other 2016 presidential contenders. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who is also running for president, said earlier this week that President Obama’s plan to accept additional Syrian refugees was “nothing short of crazy.” 
 
The Graham-Leahy bill also requires that Secretary of State John Kerry describe what security vetting refugees would have to undergo before being accepted into the country. 
Tags Barbara Mikulski Chris Murphy John Kerry Lindsey Graham Patrick Leahy Ted Cruz Thad Cochran

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