GOP to Drop Planned Parenthood Fight, Shut Down Government Over Syrian Refugees Instead

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Protestors At US Capitol Call For Intervention In Syria
A protester waves the flag of the Syrian opposition in front of the U.S. Capitol building.Photo: Win McNamee/2013 Getty Images

Several months ago, a large number of congressional Republicans were so incensed about Planned Parenthood that they vowed to vote against any resolution that included funding for the organization, though shutting down the government wouldn’t actually defund Planned Parenthood. But when they returned from a recess on Monday, it seemed they were over it. First, they mulled dropping the Planned Parenthood fight to increase their chances of forcing President Obama to veto a bill that repeals the Affordable Care Act. Then, they found an even better reason for another round of budget chaos. Following the terrorist attack in Paris, 27 governors declared they will not accept Syrian refugees into their state — and since they really don’t have the authority to decide who’s allowed into the country, they’re looking to members of Congress to back them up.

While the recent budget agreement set funding levels through 2017, reducing the risk of a shutdown, Congress still has to pass an appropriations bill. Reuters reports that on Monday, Republican representative Brian Babin circulated a letter calling for the inclusion of a provision in the bill that will cut funding for President Obama’s plan to admit 10,000 Syrian refugees in the next year. “The terrorist attack in Paris by militant Islamists is a loud clanging alarm bell to Congress and the American people warning us why we must block Obama’s reckless and foolish plan,” he said. By the end of the day, 14 House Republicans had signed the letter.

Republican senator Jeff Sessions sent out his own letter urging colleagues to attach a rider to the funding bill that would require Congress to vote on Obama’s refugee plans, and the funding they require (which is unlikely to pass). “Absent a change in the way in which Congress provides funds for refugee admissions, processing, and related matters, this ramp-up will occur despite both public and Congressional opposition,” he wrote.

There are also 15 House Republicans working on legislation to tack onto the spending bill that would defund the resettlement of refugees from the Middle East and North Africa, for the time being. According to Foreign Policy, the process could restart once authorities implement “processes to ensure that refugee and related programs are not able to be co-opted by would-be terrorists.” (Syrian asylum seekers currently go through a particularly elaborate vetting process that takes 18 to 24 months.)

Some lawmakers’ efforts to restrict the admission of Syrian refugees don’t involve the spending bill. Senator Ted Cruz said he plans to introduce legislation to bar Syrian Muslims from the country. He didn’t mention linking the bill to government funding, though he’s usually up for shutting down the government.

Whether any of these plans get any traction depends on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan. McConnell hasn’t indicated where he stands, but in a radio interview with Bill Bennett, Ryan said that the current refugee crisis is a “unique situation,” and House leaders are “looking at all of our options.” So if Republicans remain as upset as they were on Monday, he may be up for it.