The catch-all spending bill Congress is set to pass this week will provide President Barack Obama with the funds he needs to admit an extra 45,000 refugees in the next two years, including a minimum of 10,000 from Syria.
Congressional leaders did not use the Obama administration’s annual request for funds as leverage to force him to address concerns with the resettlement program, and they did not negotiate the addition of a measure backed by conservative lawmakers that would require the administration to jump through additional security hoops when admitting Syrian and Iraqi refugees.
Instead, House Speaker Paul Ryan unveiled a $1.1 trillion spending package Tuesday, after weeks of negotiations with House and Senate leaders, that includes a blank check for the president’s plan.
Secretary of State John Kerry announced in September that the administration is lifting the annual cap on refugees in order to take in an extra 45,000 migrants by 2018, including a minimum of 10,000 Syrian refugees.
By 2017 the cap will be set at 100,000 new refugees per year — up from the current cap of 70,000 — in response to the European migrant crisis. The U.S. will admit an extra 15,000 refugees in 2016 and an extra 30,000 refugees in 2017, for a combined total of 185,000 new refugees in the next two fiscal years, Kerry said.
Following terror attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, Calif., a growing number of governors have announced they will not accept Syrian refugees for resettlement in their states, and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have expressed concern about the administration’s ability to vet incoming refugees.
The House passed a bill in November, with the support of 47 Democrats, that would require the directors of the FBI, Department of Homeland Security and national intelligence to confirm to Congress that each applicant admitted from Syria and Iraq poses no threat to the United States.
Leadership denied a request from some of its backers to attach the security bill to the must-pass spending legislation.
Scores of Republicans who objected to that measure’s effectiveness pushed for a different approach, such as temporarily pausing the program or denying the administration funds. Alabama Republican Sens. Jeff Sessions and Richard Shelby pushed for the addition of language to the bill that would limit the number of refugees Obama may unilaterally admit, and expressed concern about the added cost of additional refugees.
Resettling the additional refugees will cost billions of dollars in welfare, education, and entitlement costs, Sessions pointed out in a recent statement. He cited an analysis of government data that found more than 90% of Middle Eastern refugees are on food stamps, and more than 70% receive government-subsidized healthcare.
“The omnibus would put the U.S. on a path to approve admission for hundreds of thousands of migrants from a broad range of countries with jihadists movements over the next 12 months, on top of all the other autopilot annual immigration – absent language to reduce the numbers,” Sessions and Shelby noted in their request to the Appropriations Committee.
Current funding for the refugee resettlement program expire this week. Congress is expected to hold a vote on the spending package Friday.
This report, by Rachel Stoltzfoos, was cross-posted by arrangement with the Daily Caller News Foundation.