Dems: Pass emergency spending bill to help Syrian refugees

By:  Jordain Carney
The Hill

Twenty-seven Senate Democrats are calling on Congress to pass an emergency funding bill to help respond to the Syrian refugee crisis.

"We urge the Appropriations Committee to immediately consider emergency funding for a two-pronged strategy to provide immediate humanitarian relief and increase the capacity for refugee admissions to the United States," the senators wrote in a letter sent to Sens. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) and Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), the top two lawmakers on the Appropriations Committee, and Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), who lead the subcommittee responsible for State Department funding.

The letter, spearheaded by Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), comes as lawmakers are grappling with how to respond to the Syrian refugee crisis and the administration's plan to increase the number of refugees accepted into the U.S. 

The senators note that the administration plan to increase its annual refugees cap to 100,000 by 2017 "will be meaningful only if Congress provides the necessary resources."

The emergency funding would go to increasing funding for organizations that aid Syrian refugees, as well as support the extra vetting that would be needed as the U.S. accepts more refugees. The senators wrote in the letter that priority should go to "vulnerable populations," including religious minorities, torture victims and women with children.

"As always, security considerations remain paramount. All refugee applicants must continue to undergo extensive background checks and vetting of their biographic and biometric data against a broad array of U.S. law enforcement and counterterrorism databases," they add.

Murphy has previously called for lawmakers to take up and pass an emergency spending bill. He said early last month, after visiting a refugee camp, that "Congress must take urgent action to address this problem."

Democratic Sens. Tammy Baldwin (Wis.), Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), Cory Booker (N.J.), Barbara Boxer (Calif.), Sherrod Brown (Ohio), Maria Cantwell (Wash.), Ben Cardin (Md.), Christopher Coons (Del.), Dick Durbin (Ill.), Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), Al Franken (Minn.), Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.), Martin Heinrich (N.M.), Mazie Hirono (Hawaii), Tim Kaine (Va.), Amy Klobuchar (Minn.), Ed Markey (Mass.), Bob Menendez (N.J.), Jeff Merkley (Ore.), Gary Peters (Mich.), Jack Reed (R.I.), Brian Schatz (Hawaii), Jeanne Shaheen (N.H.), Debbie Stabenow (Mich.), Tom Udall (N.M.), Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) and Ron Wyden (Ore.) signed on to Murphy's letter Monday.