The media loves Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), so when he announced on the House floor Wednesday that he would take up the House’s Syrian refugee bill Thursday, everyone was aflutter. You see, he said,”We can be compassionate and we can also be safe.”
Ryan doesn’t think it’s asking too much, and I’m sure any reasonable person can agree. “I don’t think it’s asking too much. I also want to point that we will not have a religious test. Only a security test.”
OMG! He’s so sane! Also, he said no religious test, just a security test.
The House bill (aka, H.R. 4038 – American SAFE Act of 2015), explained by the Hill, “would prevent any refugees from Syria or Iraq from being admitted to the U.S. unless the FBI, Department of Homeland Security and Director of National Intelligence can certify to Congress that each refugee does not pose a security threat.”
There is only one small problem. There is already a security test.
A rather thorough one, at that. It involves… wait for it…. the Department of Defense, the FBI, the DHS, et al, all of which know more than House Republicans about national security.
Several federal agencies, including the State Department, the Department of Homeland Security, the Defense Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, are involved in the process, which Deputy State Department Spokesman Mark Toner recently called, “the most stringent security process for anyone entering the United States.”
Guess what? Syrian refugees go through even more forms of screening than other refugees and even further forms of screening are being examined, though these details are classified.
Republican Jeff Flake (R-AZ), a member of Foreign Relations panel, said what everyone knows but isn’t admitting, the vetting process is “pretty thorough and more robust” than has been described.
Jeff Flake, a member of Foreign Relations panel, says vetting process is "pretty thorough and more robust" than has been described.
— Alex Bolton (@alexanderbolton) November 18, 2015
Meanwhile , Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX), Chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, isn’t letting reality get in the way of some good old Bush style fear-mongering:
"I just don't think we can afford to play Russian roulette with our national security," McCaul says on refugee bill. pic.twitter.com/CSXnjbQgz3
— Connor O'Brien (@connorobrienNH) November 18, 2015
Speaker Ryan’s “pause” on Syrian refugees is all for show, because the House bill isn’t going to go further than we already go on security, because that is not possible. The real issues, worthy of debate, surrounding the vetting process are things that we can’t control, such as a person being off of the radar and so when they are thoroughly vetted, nothing comes up.
Democrats are not impressed. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), Ranking Member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS), Ranking Member of the Committee on Homeland Security, and Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Ranking Member of the Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security, released a statement condemning the Republican House bill for immediately shutting down all refugee resettlement from Syria and Iraq, which is obviously the real purpose of the bill because the security steps are already being taken:
“We must constantly re-evaluate and refine our refugee screening to find ways to strengthen the existing system and ensure that we are maintaining the most rigorous vetting system in the world. Refugees, and refugees from this region specifically, already undergo a far more rigorous screening process than anyone else seeking admission to this country, including background checks, national security vetting, biometric identifiers, and interviews. The process takes on average between 18 to 24 months, and longer in many cases, before a refugee steps foot on U.S. soil. The House Republican legislation would immediately shut down all refugee resettlement from Syria and Iraq – possibly for many years – and severely handicap future refugee resettlement around the world.”
If this weren’t for show, Republicans would race back from Thanksgiving vacation but that won’t happen. Nothing gets in the way of paid time off for our House of Representatives.
President Obama will veto this silly, redundant bill and more taxpayer money will have been wasted. Or, as Republicans call it, “reforming government” (aka, lining their campaign coffers with free sound bites for ads, etc.).
Update 6:22 PM EST: Yep. President Obama has promised a veto.
Ms. Jones is the editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA.
Sarah hosts Politicus News and co-hosts Politicus Radio. Her analysis has been featured on several national radio, television news programs and talk shows, and print outlets including Stateside with David Shuster, as well as The Washington Post, The Atlantic Wire, CNN, MSNBC, The Week, The Hollywood Reporter, and more.
Sarah has won two Telly Awards and is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.