House Speaker Paul Ryan said on Tuesday that the United States should take a “pause” in admitting Syrian refugees into the country in wake of the recent terrorist attacks in Paris.
“This is a moment where it is better to be safe than sorry,” the Republican lawmaker told reporters on Tuesday. He said the measure was necessary “in order to verify that terrorists are not trying to infiltrate the refugee population.”
Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy will head a task force to come up with solutions to address the crisis. Ryan said he hopes some type of legislation will land on the House floor sometime this week.
Syria is believed to be one of the home bases of the terrorist group known as ISIS, which has claimed responsibility for Friday’s massacre, which killed more than 120 people and injured 350.
Ryan’s stance could increase the chances that government funding negotiations becomes ensnared in the refugee issue. Several Republicans, in both the House and Senate, have tied the issue to ongoing budget negotiations, raising the potential threat of a government shutdown. In a letter sent yesterday to Senate colleagues, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) asked that an upcoming spending bill be changed to require that Obama to get special approval from Congress to fund the refugee program.
Ryan’s comments come a day after a tidal wave of at least 29 governors (all Republicans except one) said that they either oppose accepting Syrian refugees or will not allow any more—either temporarily or permanently—into their states, even as the Obama administration says it will continue to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees in the next year.
Republican presidential candidates are also trying to stop the flow of Syrian refugees into the United States with Mike Huckabee and Ben Carson appealing to Ryan directly. Huckabee went as far to call on Ryan to resign if he doesn’t stop the relocation of refugees into the country, while Carson sent a letter to the speaker urging GOP leadership to move legislation to eliminate all public funding for any ongoing federal programs that aim to resettle refugees or migrants from Syria to America.
Critics of the call to ban Syrian refugees call it fear-mongering, and note the flood of refugees who have been fleeing to Europe and other regions are by and large doing so to escape civil war and ISIS-related violence.
“We’ve seen a lot of hateful rhetoric from the GOP. But the idea that we’d turn away refugees because of religion is a new low,” Hillary Clinton tweeted Tuesday, in response to some Republicans who have suggested we should allow Christians but not Muslims.
Obama on Monday called the rejection of Syrian refugees a “betrayal of our values,” adding, “Our nations can welcome refugees who are desperately seeking safety and ensure our own security. We can and must do both.”