Syrian Refugee Resettlement Funding Divides GOP Field

Turkish coast guard

Many GOP presidential candidates say Congress should defund President Obama’s Syrian refugee resettlement program following Sen. Jeff Sessions’ (R-AL) revelation that the spending bill – scheduled for a vote by Dec. 11 – would allow Obama to bring 10,000 Syrian refugees into the United States.

Though some in the field remain open to Syrian refugee resettlement across America—whether it be the ones already here, or those coming in the future.

“Thank God for Jeff Sessions. He gets it,” GOP presidential candidate former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee told Breitbart News after Sessions released his statement:

We are trillions in debt, unemployment and underemployment are at record levels and the American worker is getting gut punched by Washington every time you turn around. Allowing more refugees into America will completely collapse our already-teetering economy because all refugees are eligible for lifetime government benefits and Social Security and Medicare access. We also sure can’t afford it for national security reasons.  President Obama must not open our borders to tens of thousands of un–vetted people from the Middle East. Terrorists are marching across the globe, gaining ground, killing our allies, killing fellow Americans and promising more death and destruction – not to mention several of the recent attacks have been by people posing as “refugees.”

Huckabee said that under the Constitution, Congress has the power of the purse and it must use that tool to “reject Obama’s dangerous refugee program.”

Fellow GOP presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson joined Breitbart News Daily on SiriusXM Tuesday morning and told host Stephen K. Bannon that Congress should fight to defund the Obama administration’s refugee resettlement plans.

“They have to fight this,” Carson said about Congress fighting to defund the Obama administration’s Syrian refugee resettlement program. “We are fighting for the safety of America. We are fighting for our children and our grandchildren.”

Frontrunner Donald Trump, also in a Breitbart News Daily interview, said he thinks it’d be “unwise” for Republican leaders in Congress to fund Obama’s Syrian refugee resettlement efforts.

“Wow, I’m surprised to hear he would do that because he just became Speaker and I am very surprised he would take that stance,” Trump said about newly minted House Speaker Paul Ryan’s plans to give Obama the money to bring Syrians into America.

I actually heard he was going to take the other stance, that he was going to pass something where he’s not going to allow funding and it’s not going to happen and all that. I think he’d be very unwise to take that [funding refugee resettlement] stance. I think it would be a very, very big slap in the face to a lot of people that didn’t particularly want him in that position and they went along with it. I think it would unwise for him to take that stance. I’m surprised to hear he’ll take that stance. I heard he’s going the other way, that we would defund, that he wouldn’t allow Obama to get away with what he’s doing.

GOP presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) spokesperson Catherine Frazier spoke to Breitbart News last week about defunding the program:

Ted Cruz has no problem using Congress’ power of the purse to mitigate the damage of President Obama’s disastrous policies for the next fourteen months, including his dangerous plan to bring refugees who may have been infiltrated by ISIS or al Qaida to our shores.

Following Sessions’ reveal, GOP presidential candidate former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum’s spokesperson Matt Beynon told Breitbart News that Santorum “opposes all efforts to resettle Syrian refugees in the United States. He supports helping our allies in the region establish and operate settlements in the region.”

Carly Fiorina’s spokesperson Anna Epstein told Breitbart News that the candidate is against passing one large omnibus bill.

“Carly thinks that this is exactly why we shouldn’t be passing an omnibus spending bill,” Epstein said. “Instead, it would be far more productive if the US led an international coalition to stop human trafficking or an international coalition for humanitarian relief for the refugees.”

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) introduced an amendment prior to the Thanksgiving recess that would stop the funding of Syrian refugees.

“The underlying bill was withdrawn by Senate leaders and no vote happened but Senator Paul has led this effort and welcomes another attempt at a vote,” Paul’s Chief Strategist Doug Stafford told Breitbart News.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s spokesman Rob Nichols also responded to Sessions’ comments about the spending bill, telling Breitbart News: “The governor believes we must pause the refugee program until the federal government can assure the American people that we’re taking in refugees, not people seeking to do us harm.” Kasich’s team didn’t specifically call for defunding of the refugee resettlement program in this statement.

Likewise, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) has said that he would “hate” to see the GOP on Capitol Hill work to cut off funding to the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) programs that Obama is using to resettle Syrian refugees in America—though Rubio says he is opposed to taking “more” refugees than America already takes in annually.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, meanwhile, embraces Syrian refugee resettlement in America, but suggested to give preference to Christians fleeing from persecution.

“The answer to this is not to ban people from coming,” Bush said of the refugee program’s connections to terrorism in the wake of the Paris attacks.

Bush suggested prioritizing aid to Syrian Christians. According to the New York Post, Bush emphasized that there is not a “religious test, only a security test.”

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has said he’s opposed to bringing refugees into his state, but didn’t respond to Breitbart News’s request for comment on the funding matter in Congress.

GOP leaders like House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) have signaled that they are considering placing a bill in the omnibus measure that would tighten screening of refugees from countries with significant jihadist movements.

Last week, Ryan addressed the issue by saying that, “our nation has always been welcoming, but we cannot let terrorists take advantage of our compassion.” He added that it’s better for lawmakers “to be safe than to be sorry.” But neither has signaled that they’re willing to cut off funding for the Office of Refugee Resettlement.

Republican candidates, lawmakers and the American public’s opposition to Syrian refugees resettling in the United States follows the deadly attacks in Paris that left more than 120 people dead. One of the terrorists in the attack entered Europe by posing as a Syrian refugee, according to numerous reports.

Congress has until December 11 to pass the $1.1 trillion bill or there will be another government shutdown.