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Contentious Syrian refugee measure likely to die in U.S. Congress
December 15, 2015 / 7:02 PM / in 2 years

Contentious Syrian refugee measure likely to die in U.S. Congress

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republican-backed legislation that would slow the entry of Syrian refugees into the United States will not be included in a must-pass spending bill and is likely to die in Congress, lawmakers and aides said on Tuesday, as they rushed to finalize the funding measure.

Syrian refugees struggle to enter Macedonia through a narrow border crossing as Macedonian policemen try to shut a metal gate near to the Greek village of Idomeni December 4, 2015. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis

Steny Hoyer, the No. 2 Democrat in the House of Representatives, said members of his party would back measures to tighten a U.S. visa waiver program if they were included in the bill, but would balk at the refugee provision.

“The Syrian refugee bill I don’t expect to be in there. If it were in there, that would be a different issue,” Hoyer said.

The $1.15 trillion spending bill must pass within days to keep the U.S. government funded and avoid a shutdown.

The House passed the refugee bill days after the Nov. 13 Islamic State attacks in Paris despite President Barack Obama’s veto threat and concerns that it went against American values to block refugees feeling a protracted civil war.

The legislation never came up in the Senate amid strong opposition from Obama’s fellow Democrats. Some Republican senators also said they thought it would be preferable to focus on the visa waiver program, which allows millions of people to come to the United States each year from 38 countries without being screened.

“The refugee issue is not of the greatest concern to me,” Republican Richard Burr, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said last week, given the current rigorous screening system.

“I can’t imagine that when ISIL (Islamic State) or any terrorist group looks and says ... ‘in a year and a half we can get somebody in the U.S.,’ that that’s going to be their preferred route,” he said.

It takes 18 to 24 months for Syrian refugees to be screened before they can move to the United States. The House bill would require that high-level U.S. officials also verify that each Syrian refugee posed no security risk to the United States before being admitted.

Obama announced in September that the United States would admit 10,000 Syrians over the next year, far fewer than the numbers being taken in by Canada, Germany and other close U.S. allies.

Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Will Dunham

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