Congress should pass an emergency spending bill that increases food aid to Syrian refugees and expands the U.S.’s ability to accept more refugees, Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said Thursday.
Murphy, ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee on the Near East, said Congress should pass a bill with at least $500 million as the crisis worsens overseas.
“Congress must take urgent action to address this problem,” Murphy said in a statement.
The legislation would increase funding to the World Food Program and other international organizations helping the people fleeing violence in Syria, Murphy said. It would also expand funding so that the U.S. could take in more refugees.
Murphy’s call coincided with a White House announcement that President Obama has ordered in increase in the number of refugees the U.S. will take in next fiscal year by 10,000.
The U.S. has maintained a cap of 70,000 for refugees from around the world for the last three years.
Murphy said he visited the largest Syrian refugee camp last week in Jordan where 80,000 people have found safe haven from the Syrian civil war.
“The horrific scenes unfolding in front of me were seared into my brain. Children as young as six digging trenches in the sand for sewage and feces,” he said. “Young boys and girls kept home from school to do hard labor because the meager wage they earned is the only way their family could afford to eat.”
The U.S. “cannot continue to sit on the sidelines,” Murphy said.
The Democratic senator said Congress has already approved spending the same amount he’s proposing for what he called the "failed" program to train and equip Syrian rebels to fight the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
“If we are prepared to sink $500-600 million per year into the failed Syria train-and-equip program, which has produced not a single capable fighter inside the civil war, the United States should spend at least as much to fill desperately needed funding gaps for refugee humanitarian aid and resettlement."