The Corner

National Security & Defense

House Conservatives Not Yet Sold on Refugee Bill

In a closed-door meeting on Wednesday morning, House Freedom Caucus (HFC) members were unable to take an official position on a Republican bill that would institute stricter security screenings on Syrian refugees seeking American asylum, with several members preferring a tougher stance from leadership.

The bill, authored by Richard Hudson and Homeland Security Committee chairman Mike McCaul, has garnered the blessing of GOP leadership—including Speaker Paul Ryan and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy—and will reach the floor for a vote on Thursday. It’s widely expected to pass through the House, but some members of the conference’s rightmost flank are seeking to toughen the language, pointing to HFC’s Brian Babin, whose bill would effect a 180-day moratorium on Obama’s refugee resettlement program. 

“The thought is to maintain a focus on halting the effort for the moment until we can find our sea legs,” says HFC member Trent Franks. “This president seems to have a brilliant knack for getting almost every foreign policy initiative he touches wrong, and leaving destruction in his wake.”

Babin’s provisions will be introduced in the Rules Committee this afternoon as an amendment, after which the group will reconsider an official position, according to an aide of an HFC member.

“We just have questions. That’s the problem with this place…you get the text of a bill and the next day, you’re expected to vote,” says HFC member Raul Labrador.  

Other conservatives are also questioning the strength of the bill, readying their own proposals for consideration in Rules. One of those comes from Armed Services and Rules Committee member Bradley Byrne, whose legislation would defund the Syrian refugee resettlement program entirely. Byrne’s bill currently has co-sponsorship from Walter Jones, Mike Rogers, Lee Zeldin, and Glenn Grothman.

“It’s just another instance where our leadership is being lax about a critical issue,” Jones says. Asked whether he thought any amendments bolstering the bill’s language would pass through Rules, Jones shakes his head. “It’s hard for to know anything around here anymore.” 

Ryan spoke on the House floor on behalf of leadership’s bill this morning, saying “we can be compassionate, and we can also be safe.” 

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