Politics & Policy

Jeff Sessions Goes to the Mattresses on Immigration Funding

Sen. Jeff Sessions (File photo: Mark Wilson/Getty)

Senator Jeff Sessions (R., Ala.) wants congressional Republicans to deny funding for President Obama’s Syrian refugee resettlement plan and other immigration programs.

“As currently written, this year’s appropriations bills — which will be combined into a catch-all ‘omnibus’ by December 11th — amount to a blank check for the President to carry out his refugee resettlement plans,” Sessions said Tuesday. “Now is the hour of choosing for Congress. Will we surrender — funding Obama’s entire immigration agenda — or will we assert Congress’s power on behalf of the interests of the American people, and declare by appropriations what programs are worthy and what are not?”

Sessions’s statement is an implicit challenge to the legislation “pausing” the Syrian refugee program, which was pushed by House speaker Paul Ryan before Thanksgiving and passed with support from a veto-proof majority of House members. Sessions is hoping to rally enough Republicans to vote against any omnibus-spending package that funds Obama’s immigration programs, which could give him the leverage to force a government shutdown if his demands aren’t met. Even if he’s unsuccessful, his hawkish tactics could jolt the Republican presidential campaign just weeks before the Iowa caucuses.

Over 70 House Republicans have called for GOP leadership to withhold funding for the resettlement of Syrian refugees in the United States, citing concerns that the federal government can’t ensure that no terrorists enter the country through the program.

#share#“There is no duty of the federal government more important than ensuring the protection of the American people,” wrote House Freedom Caucus member Brian Babin in a November 20 letter signed by 73 colleagues and publicized yesterday. “We believe that we would fall short of that duty if Congress fails to exercise greater authority over the Administration’s refugee resettlement program. We see this as an important national security concern. It is prudent and in the best interest of the American people that language be included in the upcoming FY 2016 appropriations legislation to restore Congressional oversight and authority over the refugee program.”

#related#Babin’s letter doesn’t contain a threat to vote against the omnibus if his request is rejected, though, and proponents of the omnibus can argue that spiking the spending package will take down the House-passed Syrian refugee bill because Senate Democrats will filibuster the legislation otherwise.

Even the more fractious House conservatives want to use the omnibus to push that legislation through. “Why wouldn’t it be included in the omnibus? This is not a poison pill,” said Representative Mick Mulvaney (R., S.C.), another Freedom Caucus member. “That’s the story of this bill, if you have a veto-proof majority in the House, despite the pressure [from the White House], how is that a poison pill?”

— Joel Gehrke is a political reporter for National Review.

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