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Freedom Caucus: Top Priority for Spending Bill Is Stricter Screenings of Syrian, Iraqi Refugees

Despite no one believing them, members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus have insisted that their votes could be had on a forthcoming government spending bill even though they believe it spends too much money.

The way to their votes, some members claim, is for negotiators to tack on always-contentious policy provisions to the spending bill, such as one restricting the Syrian refugee program, and measures to rein in Planned Parenthood.

Now, as the negotiations reach their final stages, some House conservatives fearful they won’t get any concessions are saying they would vote for the $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill if it includes just one of those policy provisions: the measure to toughen screenings of Syrian and Iraqi refugees.

“I have made it really clear that if it’s in there, I will vote for it and if not, I won’t,” said Rep. Matt Salmon, R-Ariz., of the Freedom Caucus, which has about 40 members.

“And I have never before voted for an omnibus. So I think that’s pretty magnanimous of me. And I know there would be other Freedom Caucus members who would vote for it just with that rider.”

After some conservatives initially pushed for a proposal by Rep. Brian Babin, R-Texas, that would block federal funding to resettle Syrian refugees until the Obama administration strengthens the vetting process, Freedom Caucus members say they would be satisfied with similar legislation that the House already passed as a standalone bill.

That bill, called the America SAFE Act of 2015, would require the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, the secretary of the FBI, and the director of National Intelligence to certify that each Syrian and Iraqi refugee coming to the U.S. through the refugee program doesn’t pose a security threat.

It passed with a veto-proof majority and the support of 47 Democrats.

The Senate has not taken up the bill for a vote, and President Barack Obama has said he would veto it. Obama argues the House’s proposed screening measures would effectively slow to a halt his plan to resettle 10,000 Syrian refugees this fiscal year, a small portion of the number of Syrians fleeing war in that country.

But because the measure passed in a bipartisan way, and due to the restiveness of worried constituents back home, Salmon said it would be “astonishing” if the language of the American SAFE Act were not included as a policy rider in the omnibus spending bill.

“I think I lowered the bar considerably,” Salmon told The Daily Signal. “To me, it’s astonishing, literally astonishing, that we can pass a bill with a veto-proof majority, and 80 percent of Americans are with us, that we would take these threats seriously and believe that the president would fall on his sword and shut down the government down over this. The president is on his heels, has no cogent debate against it, and we’re not going to push this all the way? I am flabbergasted.”

As negotiations continued and a deadline of Dec. 11…

 if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, and the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at the watchman’s hand.


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