Key House Republican wants Congress to vote on Syrian refugee plan

Key House Republican wants Congress to vote on Syrian refugee plan

The chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee wants to give Congress a chance to approve or block the White House’s plans to allow at least 10,000 refugees into the U.S.

Rep. Michael McCaulMichael Thomas McCaulTop Indian official canceled congressional meeting over inclusion of Jayapal: report Republican group asks 'what is Trump hiding' in Times Square billboard Conservative group hits White House with billboard ads: 'What is Trump hiding?' MORE (R-Texas) on Friday introduced a bill that would give Capitol Hill an up-or-down vote on President Obama’s plan, which the congressman fears would allow Islamic extremists to slip into the U.S.

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The bill would drastically increase Congress’s role in how the U.S. responds to the ongoing refugee crisis — which has so far been largely handled by the White House — and could blunt the president’s efforts, given the criticism from some corners of the Republican Party.

“Many Americans are understandably concerned about the threat posed by inadequate security screening procedures for refugee[s] seeking entry into the United States,” McCaul said in a statement. “We have to take this threat seriously.”

The legislation, called the Refugee Resettlement Oversight and Security Act, would require Congress to affirmatively approve the number of refugees the administration wants to let into the U.S. It would also require that people from Iraq and Syria who are religious minorities — such as Christians — be given priority over others from their country. 

“These important security updates to the refugee process are necessary for not only the security of the United States, but for the safety of the refugees,” McCaul said.

If enacted, the legislation would give Congress a dramatically larger role to play in determining the number of Syrian refugees that the U.S. takes in, if any.

The refugee crisis has gripped Europe throughout the summer, as the situation in Syria has deteriorated.

The U.S. has given more money in aide than any other nation — roughly $4 billion — but has largely stayed on the sidelines in terms of taking in migrants. Of the roughly 4 million Syrians who have fled the country since the start of the civil war in 2011, only around 1,500 have been resettled in the U.S.

This month, the White House said it would increase the annual cap for refugees in the next fiscal year, to allow at least 10,000 Syrian migrants in to the country. 

The announcement yielded mixed reactions on Capitol Hill, where some lawmakers in both parties blasted the move as too little, too late. Some Democrats have suggested the proper number ought to be 10 times as high, and the Obama administration has declined to rule out increasing its limit.

Several Republicans, however, have been far more hawkish. Among them, McCaul has repeatedly warned that a flood of refugees could easily lead to an influx of extremists from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Opening the U.S.’s doors, he has said, could expose the U.S. to new terror attacks. 

Some GOP presidential contenders have agreed.

Front-runner Donald Trump — whose early campaign was marked by opposition to greater immigration — has said that the U.S. has “our own problems.”

“I think we should help, but I think we should be careful because frankly we have very big problems,” he told CNN earlier this month.