House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Mike McCaul’s (R-TX) American Security Against Foreign Enemies (SAFE) Act – which he claims “puts in place a robust vetting process for refugees” – is under heavy scrutiny as it heads for a vote on the House floor Thursday. Members of both the Republican Party and Democratic Party have criticized it—President Obama has even threatened a veto of it if it ever reaches his desk, while several Republicans believe it’s simply a show vote that won’t fix the problem. Now it’s official, as of late Wednesday evening: House GOP leadership is blocking any amendments from being offered to the bill as the legislation is rushed to the House floor.
“The Committee granted, by record vote of 7-3, a closed rule for H.R. 4038,” the House Rules Committee, which is chaired by
Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX) but influenced by the Speaker’s office, said in a “Notice of Action” to members’ offices at 8 p.m. on Wednesday evening.
“The rule provides one hour of debate equally divided and controlled by the chair and ranking minority member of the Committee on the Judiciary. The rule waives all points of order against consideration of the bill,” the Rules memo continued. “The rule provides that the bill shall be considered as read. The rule waives all points of order against provisions in the bill. The rule provides one motion to recommit.”
While it’s technically the House Rules Committee taking this action, the Speaker of the House has substantial influence over the outcome.
Despite all of the talk that the process in the House would open up under Ryan in the wake of now former House Speaker
Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) —who resigned from Congress after being driven out of the Speakership by members of his own party furious with his lack of openness in legislative process—Ryan has, on his first major move as Speaker, shut down the process entirely. It’s unclear if it will ever get better.
McCaul’s bill contains several holes and doesn’t fix the problem—it simply requires more paperwork from the administration, and still lets refugees into the U.S. from Syria, according to sources close to Breitbart News.
McCaul’s bill requires: (1) “The FBI director must certify the background investigation of each refugee” and (2) “the secretary of homeland security, FBI director and the director of national intelligence must unanimously concur that each refugee is not a security threat to the United states and make a certification to Congress.”
According to the House Majority Leader’s office, McCaul’s legislation “constitutes an effective pause until we are certain that no refugee from Iraq and Syria who is a threat will be allowed in the country.”
However, Breitbart News has learned that many conservatives are skeptical, saying McCaul’s bill doesn’t stop the flow of refugees from Syria into the United States, something the American public supports.
As Breitbart News’s Matthew Boyle reported:
But despite McCaul’s and the committee’s tough-sounding rhetoric, the bill—several congressional aides and the actual text of the legislation confirm—simply requires one new step for Syrian and Iraqi refugee admittance and resettlement: That the Director of National Intelligence, the director of the FBI and the Secretary of Homeland Security approve any such refugees beforehand. Each of those people work for President Obama at the pleasure of the president.
“That’s like asking Janet Napolitano to verify the border is secure,” one GOP aide told Breitbart News. “Of course they are going to approve them without hesitation.”
When asked about these concerns, the McCaul aide said that the extraordinary review process for every refugee will gum up the works and essentially grind the program to a halt.
“Our point here is this is going to have an immediate effect of a pause on the president to do what we have wanted to do all along—to make sure that the vetting process itself is appropriate,” the aide said. “Again, this bill is not designed to stop all refugees from coming into the United States period. The problem that we have identified is we haven’t been able to confidently vet these individuals.”
But another congressional GOP aide from an office highly skeptical of the package told Breitbart News if anyone expects three top officials who serve at the pleasure of the president to rebuff Obama’s wishes they’re kidding themselves.
“If you believe that, I’ve got some oceanfront property in Arizona,” the aide said.
Rep. Brian Babin (R-TX) was one of several members of Congress that moved to offer amendments – which were all blocked by House Rules Chairman Pete Sessions (R-TX) – that would have placed a six-month moratorium on allowing refugees into the United States.
Babin’s amendment would have also required a Government Accountability Office “study within 90 days of the economic impact of refugees on state and local governments.”
“This would be an amendment to the bill that we are talking about on the floor,” Babin told to the House Rules Committee late Wednesday evening. “There are still too many unknowns with [McCaul’s] bill in its current form.”
Several Republican lawmakers backed Babin’s amendment including:
, Rep. Loudermilk (R-GA),
Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX)
Rep. John Culberson (R-TX)
Rep. Garret Graves (R-LA)
.Breitbart News predicted more than a month ago that if elected Speaker of the House, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) would block any conservative amendments to curb immigration.
On October 11th, Breitbart News’s Julia Hahn reported:
If Heilemann and Beck’s analyses [about Ryan’s history for supporting open borders immigration policies] are correct… it would also mean that conservative lawmakers will be blocked from any attempt to advance legislative campaigns to curb immigration or to coordinate any public messaging designed to give voice to the concerns of working class Americans whose schoolhouses, jobsites and emergency rooms have been transformed by massive immigration.
For instance, Congressman Brian Babin recently offered legislation to halt all refugee resettlement – a bill sponsored by Rules Chairman Pete Sessions and Homeland Chairman
Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX)
. Such a bill might never be brought to the floor under a Ryan Speakership. Nor would a plethora of enforcement ideas developed by anti-amnesty lawmakers including Mo Brooks,
, Dave Brat, Louie Gohmert,
Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA)
Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN)
.Yet many are pushing Ryan to grab the gavel.
Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security
criticized McCaul’s bill, saying it was “wrong procedurally” and “wrong on the substance.”Lofgren said Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) promised to change the process in the House, “yet in one of the first major pieces of legislation…there’s been no mark up” on the legislation.
She called McCaul’s bill a “knee jerk reaction,” to the terrorist attack in Paris, adding that it “focuses only on Iraq and Syria” and not on Nigeria regarding Boko Haram or other countries with ties to terrorism.
After several members from his own party offered amendments to McCaul’s bill, Sessions suggested that these amendments can be considered at a later date through the appropriations process.
If the bill passes the House vote on Thursday, it then moves to the Senate.
The legislation’s future remains entirely uncertain, as it’s unknown at this time whether or not the Senate will take it up for a vote. The legislation – even if passed by Congress – could be vetoed by President Obama, as he’s threatened to do.
If there’s going to be a real fight from Congress against Obama’s refugee resettlement plan, that would come on the spending bill that must be passed to fund the government in early December.