You wouldn’t know it by the Facebook memes, but right now, a fairly large bipartisan majority of the U.S. Congress is supportive of a bill that would increase scrutiny on incoming Syrian refugees, requiring an FBI background check in addition to security screening measures already in place.
I can’t tell you whether this is a truly necessary development or not — it seems oddly timed to take advantage of a groundswell of grassroots support, particularly given that Congress has been struggling with the issue of Syrian relief for a while now — but the White House most certainly considers it their hill to die on, and has been busy issuing veto threats and holding emergency briefings with top Democratic elected officials in what seems like a last-ditch effort to table the twin House and Senate bills.
The veto threat used the strongest language the White House uses to communicate veto threats, using this phrasing as the punchline: “Given the lives at stake and the critical importance to our partners in the Middle East and Europe of American leadership in addressing the Syrian refugee crisis, if the President were presented with H.R. 4038, he would veto the bill.”
It’s really not that serious. The bill would require that the FBI double back on DHS background checks, essentially signing off on the same paperwork, so that worried Americans might feel a little better about the screening process. It’s an extra layer of administration that doesn’t seem to add too much work to the process, but might, in the long run, help to make things seem more airtight, as we accept more, mostly economic migrants, out of European and Middle Eastern refugee camps. But by the way the White House is talking about it, it’s a doomsday scenario that would require thousands of essential personnel to reconfigure their entire workload for days, if not years, to address the new, highly onerous restrictions placed on people fleeing life or death situations, certainly exposing them — and the Federal employees responsible for the work — to an imminent massacre, personally perpetuated by House and Senate Republicans.
Strangely, though, while Republicans will probably vote unanimously for the bills (one of which — the Senate one — by the way, will be sponsored by a Democrat, Sen. Dianne Feinstein), it’s the Democrats the White House seems really worried about. After all, the White House wins when they oppose Republicans, but Democrats haven’t shown much concern for the President’s position on the Syrian refugees, either. And why would they? Extra scrutiny is a winning issue, it doesn’t preclude the country from accepting refugees, and it’s popular with nearly two thirds of voters. With Dems unsure of how 2016 is destined to play out, opposing voters, not the White House, is the true test.
Which is why Dem leadership isn’t committing to whip any votes the President’s way. Nancy Pelosi, of all people, has told her colleagues that they should do what’s best for them.
With the House’s 246 Republicans expected to solidly support the legislation, the administration was eager to keep the final tally for the bill below 290 — the number required to override a veto if all lawmakers vote. Democratic aides said they worried that 60 or more Democrats would abandon the lame-duck president and support the legislation out of concerns about how voters might interpret a vote opposing stiffer restrictions for Syrians to come to the U.S.
In a sign of conflict within their party, senior House Democrats said they were not pushing rank-and-file lawmakers to oppose the bill.
“I’ve said to them from the start, ‘Nobody’s asked you to do anything. Do whatever works for you, for your district,'” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., told journalists.
This has to be a rough development for Obama. The Syrian refugee crisis is really his last opportunity to “not totally screw up” the entire Syrian thing. As Allahpundit notes at Hot Air, the flow of migrants abandoning ship in Syria can be attributed, in large part, to American machinations in the region, most of which are the result of Administration policies. As Obama dithered, Syria exploded, and as the situation deteriorated, the Administration issued nothing but empty threats and half-hearted assistance. All Obama has left to rescue his foreign policy is some manufactured outrage over a refugee criss that his decisions contributed to. He absolutely needs the Dems to back him up here, but he’s going against the flow of public opinion, and against a group unwilling to sacrifice their continued employment so that he can recover a bit of his legacy.
I feel like I should make a meme about this, maybe.
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