Attempts from two Republican presidential candidates in Congress to block or curtail benefits for Syrian refugees seeking to enter the U.S. failed Thursday as the debate over how the country should address those displaced by war in the Middle East played out on Capitol Hill.
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, a GOP presidential candidate, called for passage of legislation that would "immediately bar refugees to the United States from any country, such as Iraq or Syria, that contains territory substantially controlled by a foreign terrorist organization" for three years. Cruz's attempt to pass the bill by unanimous consent was blocked by Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin.
"I will say any official that is responsible for bringing people in that they do not know if they are radical Islamic terrorists will bear responsibility for the consequences of their action," Cruz said after his efforts were blocked.
Cruz also unsuccessfully tried to pass legislation that would revoke U.S. citizenship for anyone over 18-years-old who supports a terrorist organization.
Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, who is also waging a White House bid, attempted to force a vote on legislation that "would block taxpayer benefits for new refugees from high-risk countries." Fellow Republican Sen. Susan Collins blocked the amendment to the Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Bill, saying it would effectively kill the legislation.
The House, meanwhile, easily passed tough new screening procedures that would essentially halt Syrian refugees from entering the country, despite a veto threat from President Obama.