House Republican leaders are planning to advance legislation tightening the visa waiver program as part of an effort to avoid a government shutdown over language many conservatives are pushing to restrict the acceptance of refugees from Syria and other Middle Eastern countries.
By moving a measure to make it tougher for some foreigners to travel to the United States without a visa, House leaders plan to avoid a fight in the fiscal 2016 omnibus spending package over more contentious language requiring the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security to sign off on resettlement applications from Middle Eastern refugees, reported the Hill.
A bill overhauling the visa waiver program is expected to draw bipartisan support and most likely President Obama’s signature. The measure could be added to the omnibus package as well.
“We need to solve problems, we need to fix issues and we need to win when we pick fights,” Rep. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.), a member of the Homeland Security and Armed Services committees, told The Hill. “We need to get things across the finish line, through the House and Senate and signed by the president to actually fix a problem.”
Conversely, Democrats have warned that adding a rider to the omnibus strengthening the screening process for refugees fleeing Syria and Iraq could invite a shutdown.
Even if the GOP avoids a showdown over a controversial rider concerning Middle Eastern refugees, to complete an end-of-the-year spending bill the two parties still will need to hash out a variety of other riders. At this point, the appropriations panels are passing off high-profile issues to party leaders. On the Republican side, lawmakers are hoping to include riders targeting Obamacare, and environmental and financial regulations, according to the story.
On Tuesday, House Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers (R-Ky.) said he is aiming to post the text of the omnibus agreement on Dec. 7, even as contentious policy differences still remain to be resolved. Sticking to that schedule would give both chambers just enough time to clear the spending package prior to Dec. 11 when the current continuing resolution expires.
And if the schedule slips somewhat, leaders from both parties have indicated they would accept a short-term stopgap to tide the government over.
“There are still a lot of outstanding issues. On the other hand, the desire to leave takes over pretty fast,” Tom Cole (R-Okla.), chairman of the House Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Subcommittee, told CQ Roll Call.