Legislative Activity

Congress Returns to Potential Showdown over Refugee Resettlement, Debate of Changes to Visa Waiver Program

Congress returns to Washington this week, but the brewing battle over plans to resettle Syrian refugees threatens to complicate the few days remaining before the end of the legislative session.  Just before the Thanksgiving break, the House passed legislation (H.R. 4038) that would increase requirements before Syrian and Iraqi refugees could be resettled in the United States.  Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) has suggested that there may be enough Senate Democrat opposition to filibuster the measure, though President Obama has already pledged to veto the bill if it reaches his desk.  However, Republicans could include language denying funding to resettlement efforts as part of any FY 2016 omnibus spending bill – and with current funding authority set to expire on December 11, any showdown over this issue could risk a government shutdown .

Members will likely also debate changes to the Visa Waiver Program, which permits citizens from approved countries to enter the United States without a visa.  Proposals for change include the Visa Waiver Program Firearms Clarification Act of 2015 (S. 2323), which would close an existing loophole allowing foreign nationals who enter the U.S. under the Visa Waiver Program to purchase and wield firearms, as well as legislation under development by a group of Senators led by Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-California) that would reportedly include provisions barring federally-licensed gun dealers from selling firearms to known or suspected terrorists if government officials believed they might be used for terrorism and include new identify confirmation requirements.

This Week’s Hearings:

  • Wednesday, December 2: The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing titled “Oversight of the Administration’s Criminal Alien Removal Policies.”
  • Thursday, December 3:  The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will hold a hearing to consider several pending nominations.
  • Thursday, December 3: The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a meeting to consider legislation.

Executive Branch Updates

President Obama Reassures Holiday Travelers

As Americans prepared for one of the busiest travel days of the year, President Barack Obama delivered remarks on Wednesday reassuring all that there was no “specific and credible” intelligence pointing to a plot against the homeland.  President Obama sought to reassure travelers following the deadly attacks in Paris barely two weeks earlier, calling on them to enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday and time with friends and family.