Republican Party

Senate Democrats Call Ryan’s Bluff and Reject SAFE Act Sleight of Hand

“You’re not securing the homeland, you’re pretending to secure the homeland” – Mark Levin, Conservative Talk Show Host, regarding the SAFE Act

Senate Democrats Wednesday put an end to Republican attempt to legislate away the Syrian refugee crisis with their anti-Syrian refugee legislation, H.R. 4038, American Security Against Foreign Enemies (SAFE) Act, which, Paul Ryan whines, “passed the House in November with a bipartisan, veto-proof majority.”

Oh dear. He was so close. The House passed this bill 289 to 137, but thanks to the presence of sufficient Democrats who kept their promise, the Senate managed only a vote of 55-43 in favor of cloture when they needed 60.

Harry Reid, as usual, called it: As The Hill reported in November, “When asked about the prospect of Obama vetoing the legislation, Reid said, ‘Don’t worry, it won’t get passed. Next question?'”

Despite the “show vote” nature of his prized legislation – it didn’t cut off funding for Obama’s resettlement plan – Ryan issued a statement Thursday, excoriating Democrats for having a moral compass, as well as a lick of common sense:

“By blocking this measure, Senate Democrats are making it that much harder for us to keep Americans safe. Their vote is irresponsible in a time of grave threats. Even the administration’s top law-enforcement officials say there are gaps in our refugee program that terrorists can exploit. Our approach balances security and compassion, and it was backed by a veto-proof majority in the House. We will continue to look for common ground to protect the homeland and defeat the threat posed by ISIS and radical Islamic terror.”

Here is why the so-called SAFE Act is nothing of the sort and Ryan is full of sh*t. On the contrary, as the President has said in November when he made his veto threat, HR 4038, as a fix, did not fix anything, and “would divert resources” from the “Nation’s robust security screening protocols.”

And they are robust. The Harvard Immigration Project (HIP), in an open letter to the U.S. Senate in November, condemned “the xenophobic rhetoric that has marked this debate from the start.” Not to mention the departure from reality.

HIP pointed out that procedures are already very stringent:

Refugees to the United States, particularly those of Syrian origin, are already subject to some of the most stringent security screening procedures in the world. They must first be cleared by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and are then required to go through an extensive vetting process, which includes independent background checks by U.S. federal agencies, biometric screening, terrorism database searches, and investigations into personal ties, places of employment and sites of worship. This process takes 12 to 18 months for non-Syrian refugees, and Syrian refugees can wait three years or longer due to added background checks required by the Syria Enhanced Review process.

The Center for Victims of Torture™ (CVT) made the same point and explained exactly what the SAFE Act did do:

The additional bureaucratic layers established by H.R. 4038 would not enhance security protections for Americans or provide practical solutions to the fear Americans may be feeling related to threats from ISIS or other terrorist organizations,” said Annie Sovcik, director of CVT’s Washington office. “By contrast, H.R. 4038 represents an assault on the families from Syria and Iraq fleeing torture, war, violence and persecution, and it disregards the current, rigorous security processes that are already in place for refugees seeking to be admitted to the United States through the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program.

Put simply, the SAFE Act makes America ‘safe’ by creating such a bureaucratic logjam that effectively, nobody gets into the country and Republicans get to portray themselves as security-conscious, not racists.

What we get with the SAFE Act is added layers of bureaucracy and more Republican sleight of hand, finding ways to pretend to be doing something when they’re actually doing nothing at all, and then blaming Democrats for not going along with it. Since when do added layers of bureaucracy protect a country? Since when does a party that claims to stand for small government add layers of bureaucracy?

If simple common sense is not answer enough to Ryan’s baseless attack on Democrats, how about the moral equation? These are compassionate conservatives after all, right?

Ryan portrays Democrats as enemies of this country, but he might want to mention that not only the Democrats, but also the Jesuits also oppose this legislation, citing not only this country’s “long history of welcoming persecuted people,” but also Pope Francis’ words, that,

“The ability to overcome prejudice and fear is an essential ingredient for promoting the culture of encounter, in which we are not only prepared to give, but also to receive from others.”

Ryan might also want to take note of the fact that the Episcopal Church also opposes the SAFE Act, saying that “as a nation, it is our moral duty” to welcome refugees. Well, see there you go: appealing to morality, the one thing guaranteed to have no effect on a Republican, especially Paul Ryan, who has already faced condemnation from his own Church for his Scrooge-like budget.

None of these arguments will stop Republicans from lying about their legislation, anymore than it will stop the Governor of Michigan from blaming the federal government for his own failings, or Sarah Palin blaming Obama for her own bad parenting. This is the party of pass the buck, sleight of hand, and fixing problems that don’t need to be fixed.

Yet, as you can see, reality is something quite different from what Republicans claim it is. The SAFE Act does not make America safe. It just makes refugees less safe while allowing Republicans to pretend to put America’s safety first while they insist on allowing terrorists to buy assault rifles. If this is the result of his ‘working’ maybe we will all be better off if Paul Ryan does put his family first.

Hrafnkell Haraldsson

Hrafnkell Haraldsson, a social liberal with leanings toward centrist politics has degrees in history and philosophy. His interests include, besides history and philosophy, human rights issues, freedom of choice, religion, and the precarious dichotomy of freedom of speech and intolerance. He brings a slightly different perspective to his writing, being that he is neither a follower of an Abrahamic faith nor an atheist but a polytheist, a modern-day Heathen who follows the customs and traditions of his Norse ancestors. He maintains his own blog, A Heathen's Day, which deals with Heathen and Pagan matters, and Mos Maiorum Foundation, dedicated to ethnic religion. He has also contributed to NewsJunkiePost, GodsOwnParty and Pagan+Politics.

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