Congressional Weasel Words Surround The Syrian Refugee Issue

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) talks to reporters following the weekly Senate Democratic policy luncheon at the U.S. Capitol November 17, 2015 in Washington, DC. Senate Democratic leaders said they will wait until after being briefed by the White House later this week before deciding how to proceed with allowing more …
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Washington, DC

With Congress appearing to take up the dilemma currently surrounding the potential influx into the United States of thousands of Syrian refugees, a look at what various members are saying and what they may actually mean seems in order.

According to The Hill, “Sen. Charles Schumer (N.Y.), the third ranking member of the Senate Democratic leadership, on Tuesday said it may be necessary to halt the resettlement of Syrian refugees in the United States.” Said Schumer, “We’re waiting for the briefing tomorrow, a pause may be necessary. We’re going to look at it.” That sounds good but Schumer could just as easily be setting up Republicans who noted his comments.

Republicans immediately seized on Schumer’s comment, which breaks with other Democrats who have argued against halting the program.

A spokeswoman for Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) highlighted Schumer’s statement as an example of “bipartisan concern” over refugees.


However, what if after the briefing Schumer says the White House has satisfied his concerns and the program should go ahead? In that case, Republicans who may come away still in opposition to the program could be left all alone with Democrats painting them as uncompromising. Words are supposed to matter, but too often in Washington they simply don’t. And “pause” is so vague as to either not be saying much of anything at all, or allowing everyone to hear precisely what they want to hear in it.

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) made what looks like a stronger statement … but is it?

How is the White House supposed to “guarantee” a negative? It can’t. All it can do is say there is no evidence that such and such a refugee is connected to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). His statement also does nothing to address cases in which an individual might become radicalized after entering the U.S. It’s fair to ask, what good are all these words we’re hearing on the issue right now?

Centrist Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) signed a letter to President Obama Monday calling on him not to allow another Syrian refugee into the country unless federal authorities can guarantee with 100-percent assurance they are not connected to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

What is clear is that a great many Democrats are in support of going forward with the refugee program as planned.

Other Democrats have rejected freezing Obama’s plan to resettle at least 10,000 Syrian refugees in the current fiscal year.

Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said halting the program “is a simplistic reaction to a very complicated challenge.”

On the Republican side, newly installed Speaker Paul Ryan is leading the charge … or at least the talk … but despite New York Times’ headline that says “halt”: Republicans Call for Halt to Syrian Refugee Program –  or a lede that says “suspension, “Republicans on Tuesday demanded the suspension of a program to accept Syrian refugees,” reading Paul’s actual comments gets us to that fuzzy word “pause,” once again.

“Our nation has always been welcoming,” Mr. Ryan said at a news conference. “But we cannot allow terrorists to take advantage of our compassion. This is a moment where it is better to be safe than to be sorry. So we think the prudent, the responsible thing is to take a pause in this particular aspect of this refugee program in order to verify that terrorists are not trying to infiltrate the refugee population.”

Face it, one can pause for a second of thought, or pause for a few minutes to have a drink, or even a smoke – but it’s not like anyone above has said stop.

With many believing Republicans in Congress are going to deliver little more than a show vote in the end, it shouldn’t be surprising if the use of a weasel word like “pause” by leaders in both parties gives the GOP’s grassroots base a little “pause” of their own. At this point, the best Conservatives can do is keep an eye on what Republicans in Congress do, versus what they have said, or go onto say.

Instead of listening to their constituents and following the calls of 30 governors to shut down Islamic refugee resettlement, Republicans are about to pull the classic bait and switch: pass a phony standalone bill and decline to defund it in the budget bill… Remember Obamacare, executive amnesty, EPA regulations, and Planned Parenthood? The Islamic refugee issue is no different. They have no intention of actually stopping it, despite the fact that they could destroy the Democrats in the upcoming election on this issue alone. They will pass phony legislation, but will never defund it.