On Tuesday, Sen. Charles Schumer (N.Y.), the likely candidate to rule Democrats on the Senate after the retirement of Senator Harry Reid, issued a statement that shocked members of both parties as he spoke of a briefing considering vetting refugees entering the United States: “We’re waiting for the briefing tomorrow, a pause may be necessary. We’re going to look at it.”
The vetting of refugees has become a partisan issue, with Barack Obama and his fellow Democrats championing the welcome of Syrian refugees while over 25 Republican governors reject refugees coming to their states. Thus Schumer’s defection from the party line came as a surprise.
A spokeswoman for Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), the Speaker of the House who has tried to maintain a conciliatory stance toward Democrats, trumpeted Schumer’s statement to claim that a “bipartisan concern” over refugees exists. That statement could be buttressed by a letter from Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin to Obama on Monday urging him to disallow Syrian refugees unless they can be fully vetted to make sure they have no connections with ISIL.
To call a halt of Syrian refugees a bipartisan effort is a giant stretch; Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) snapped such a posture “is a simplistic reaction to a very complicated challenge,” adding, “Background checks need to be redoubled in terms of refugees but if we’re talking about threats to the United States, let’s put this in perspective … Let us not just single out the refugees as the potential source of danger in the United States.”
On Monday, Democratic 2016 presidential aspirant Bernie Sanders intoned, "During these difficult times as Americans, we will not succumb to racism. We will not allow ourselves to be divided and succumb to Islamophobia!” On Tuesday, Hillary Clinton echoed, "We've seen a lot of hateful rhetoric from the GOP. But the idea that we'd turn away refugees because of religion is a new low,” adding later, "We can't act as though we are shutting the door to people in need without undermining who we are as Americans.”
“We’re waiting for the briefing tomorrow, a pause may be necessary. We’re going to look at it.”
Senator Charles Schumer
No bipartisan consensus exists when it comes to accepting Syrian refugees, which makes Schumer’s statement surprising. But Schumer is a cunning opportunist; he opposed the Iran nuclear deal when he knew it was unstoppable, simply to curry favor with his constituents, as he called Democrats to assure them he wouldn’t persuade them to join him; his temporary bout with sanity regarding the Syrian refugees will likely end when it no longer is politically expedient.