Congress

Ryan wants ‘pause’ in Syrian refugee program after Paris attacks

House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis. arrives for a GOP strategy session with House Republicans, Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2015, on Capitol Hill in Washington.
House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis. arrives for a GOP strategy session with House Republicans, Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2015, on Capitol Hill in Washington. AP

House Speaker Paul Ryan Tuesday called for a pause in allowing Syrian refugees into the United States as lawmakers weigh how to proceed in the aftermath of the deadly terrorist attacks in Paris.

Ryan’s call for a time out from President Barack Obama’s plan to admit 10,000 Syrian refugees next year comes as some lawmakers raised the specter of attaching refugee language to an omnibus federal government funding bill next month - a move that could risk a government shutdown.

Following a closed-door meeting with House Republicans, Ryan told reporters that "Our nation has always been welcoming" but added that "we cannot let terrorists take advantage of our compassion."

"This is a moment where it is better to be safe than to be sorry," Ryan, R-Wis., said. "So we think the prudent, the responsible thing is to take a pause in this particular aspect of the refugee program in order to verify that terrorists are not trying to infiltrate the refugee population."

Although more than half of the country's governors took a hard line against accepting Syrian refugees in their states after recent terrorist attacks, people in the nation's capital aren't so certain.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., announced the formation of a task force of chairmen from the Homeland Security, Armed Services, Judiciary, Intelligence, Appropriations and Foreign Affairs committees, to help draft legislation, which is expected to be produced some time this week.

"We’ve coming up with short-term and long-term solutions. It’s not something we can solve overnight," said McCarthy. "The speaker has challenged us to come up with legislation starting this week."

Rank-and-file House Republicans were all over the map as they emerged from the meeting Tuesday. Some embraced Ryan’s call for a pause while other advocated an aggressive approach on Syria and the refugee issue, including linking the issues to the omnibus bill.

"It could very well be (part of the budget bill)," said Mark Walker, R-N.C. "That will be part of the discussion the task force is taking up. I’m willing to look at anything, but I do want to see what the task force comes up with."

However, Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus said no one is talking about a government shutdown "except for you guys in the media.

"We’re for refugees. That’s a component of American history," he said. "But we want to make sure that the people that are coming here are not going to do us harm."   

William Douglas: 202-383-6026, @williamgdouglas

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