The White House sent DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson and chief of staff Denis McDonough up to Capitol Hill to lecture Democrats about widows and orphans. They’re heading back with a couple of lectures from congressional Democrats ringing in their ears. Buzzfeed reports that the SAFE Act, which requires a pause in processing refugees while the US retools its vetting, will now likely pass the House by a wide bipartisan margin:
House Republicans — along with a sizable number of Democrats — are expected to pass a bill Thursday afternoon to halt the resettlement of Syrian and Iraqi refugees in the country until key federal agencies can certify that they have been properly vetted.
The measure will have broad Democratic support even after the Obama administration, which has already threatened to veto the legislation, made an effort Thursday morning to convince Democrats to vote against the legislation. …
“I’ve seen better presentations in my time here,” said Democratic Rep. Steve Israel of New York, who was still undecided. “They may have strong arguments on their side, but they’re not expressing those strong arguments sufficiently.”
Israel wasn’t alone in his critique; other Democrats told Tarini Parti that the Obama administration presentation was less than impressive. Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA), not exactly known for his moderate or bipartisan leanings, responded harshly to the full-court press from the White House:
Democratic Rep. Gerry Connolly of Virginia, who will vote in favor of the bill, told reporters it was “carefully crafted” and the administration should work with Republicans on the legislation instead of urging Democrats to vote against.
“(The bill) adds more of a burden in the screening, but it’s not a devastating added burden and it does give assurance that those coming into the country are properly screened and not a threat to anybody.”
What does that mean for the effort by Senate Democrats to derail the SAFE Act with a parallel bill that focuses on restricting visas rather than toughening the screening process for refugees? That effort to paint Republicans as extreme xenophobes won’t have much success with Democrats endorsing the GOP’s position on the SAFE Act. As much as a few Democrats might want to bolster Obama’s sneering demagoguery, political reality appears to be dawning on one end of Pennsylvania Avenue, even if the other seems mired in its own self-righteous fantasies.
Besides, the two proposals aren’t mutually exclusive. It’s possible — and indeed, almost certainly wise — to tighten up both processes. In an exclusive interview that will air later today on The Ed Morrissey Show (4 ET), Rep. Frank Guinta (R-NH) told me that the House will also look at that process for improvement, but wanted to act on the refugee track right away. While his own governor Maggie Hassan has been the only Democratic state executive to call for a pause, at least so far, Guinta tells me that her statement doesn’t go far enough. We want to help people that truly want to live in freedom, Guinta says, but we have to ensure American security first.
Needless to say, Obama won’t like this a bit, but if the SAFE Act wins enough Democrats, he may not have much choice but to sign it. If he vetoes the bill, Republicans may have other ways to slow the process down, Adam Kredo reports for the Free Beacon:
Congress is considering proposals to cut federal funding to the State Department that enable it to admit refugees into the United States, according Rep. Jeff Duncan (R., S.C.), who warned in an interview Thursday with the Washington Free Beacon that the country’s southern border is providing a pathway for potential terrorists to enter the United States undetected.
Duncan, chair of the House subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere and a member of its Homeland Security Committee, said that after Congress votes on a measure that would pause the entry of Syrian refugees into the United States, it could move forward on a proposal to freeze funding that enables the State Department to resettle these individuals.
The next step is “to push to deny funding to the State Department for processing these Syrian refugees until we can get some assurances vetting can happen,” Duncan said, adding that Obama administration officials have admitted that it has little ability to vet Syrian refugees applying for asylum in the U.S.
That would set up an even worse situation for Democrats — a President triggering a budget crisis to push a widely unpopular refugee program without even considering an improvement to the process. It’s precisely those optics that have partisan brawlers like Israel and Connolly telling the White House to wake up and start working for solutions.