Ryan: Don’t Want to Nix Syrian, Iraqi Refugee Programs, but ‘Standards’ Not Where They Should Be

House Speaker Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI) stated that while he doesn’t want terrorists to dictate whether the Syrian and Iraqi refugee programs exist, “the FBI cannot right now, certify these standards, so this does pause the program. And so, we think we effectively are accomplishing the same goal” on Wednesday’s “Hannity” on the Fox News Channel.

Ryan began by slamming President Obama’s criticism of the GOP opponents of his refugee policy, stating, “I think he’s playing politics. It’s remarkably unpresidential, Sean. I don’t, for the life of me, understand this. He just said he’s going to veto our bill putting a pause on the refugee program. I can’t imagine why one would do that. Our bottom line is very, very clear, and it’s the first responsibility of federal government, secure the homeland, keep people safe in America. So here’s what we’re doing. We don’t — we obviously know that ISIS that wants to infiltrate the refugee population. That’s very clear. So, we need to put a pause on this program, and have higher standards placed upon it, so that we can verify, on a person-by-person basis each and every single refugee, whether or not they pose any security risk, and if they do, and if we can’t without a shadow of a doubt prove that, then they shouldn’t come here.”

Ryan added, “we’re upping the threshold from what that is right now, and here’s the problem. There really isn’t a Syria to talk to to corroborate the veracity of a person’s claims. That is why we’re saying we have to put this bill in place, which pauses the program, effectively, and make sure that we raise the standards, so that we can get in and check on every one of these claims. And if we can’t verify a person’s claims, then they can’t come. So, the point here Sean is, we’ve got to keep the country safe. I think the president is playing politics with this. I think that’s very unfortunate. And the other point I’m trying to say is, this should not be partisan issue. Democrats agree with us here in Congress, and I think we’re going to have a pretty big bipartisan vote tomorrow, because this should not be about Republicans and Democrats. This should be about keeping America safe, and knowing that ISIS is trying to infiltrate the refugee population.”

He also stated that he believes the bill would put a pause on the program for longer than six months.

When asked about cancelling the refugee program altogether, which might mean defunding it, Ryan answered, “I don’t think we have time to wait a month for funding bills. I think we need to do this now. That’s point number one. Point number two, we’re a compassionate country. The refugee laws are important laws, and we don’t want terrorists to dictate how we run — whether we have a law or not, but we don’t think, in this particular case, with respect to ISIS trying to infiltrate the Syrian and Iraqi — by the way, Iraqi refugee program, that the standards are anywhere near where they should be, and by the way, the FBI cannot right now, certify these standards, so this does pause the program. And so, we think we effectively are accomplishing the same goal. But the other point I’m trying to make Sean is, we’re trying to make this bipartisan, because we don’t think this should be a Republican or Democrat issue.”

Ryan was also asked if the president vetoed his bill, but if it came to it, he would use the budget renewal in December “be willing to use the power of the purse and defund this?” He responded, “Look, right now, Sean, I’m not going to take any options off the table, I’m not going to put any options on the table.”

Ryan further said, “this is just step one. We have a lot more work to do. We’re going to do hearings. We’re going to do legislation. We have many more things that we will be doing here in the House to address these issues.”

Ryan concluded, “I don’t think a religious test is appropriate. That’s not who we are. We believe in the First Amendment and religious freedom, and I don’t think it’s the appropriate test, because anybody can come under the guise of something else. It’s not hard for a person to claim that they’re something that they’re not, like a Christian, or something like that, to get into the country. That is why we are calling for a security test. I think what — the test that matters is a security test, because anybody can try and infiltrate this country by posing as something that they are not, so I don’t think that’s the proper test.”

Follow Ian Hanchett on Twitter @IanHanchett