The Senate will vote on a Republican effort to curtail aid to Afghans evacuated during the US withdrawal.
Republicans in the Senate are pushing for a spending bill needed to keep the government open after midnight to curtail aid to Afghans who were quickly evacuated to the United States when US troops withdrew last month.
Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton’s proposal is just one of a series of skirmishes over a bill that would extend federal funding through early December and provide emergency funding for Afghan refugee resettlement and disaster recovery. The legislation is expected to pass later Thursday with bipartisan support, but Republicans have first requested votes on several proposed changes.
Democrats brace for a good vote on Mr. Cotton, with the ability to bring in Vice President Kamala D. Harris, who serves as Senate President, to break through and beat a 50-50 tie.
Mr Cotton’s amendment would stop aid for things like housing, food and medical benefits after March 31, 2023 for Afghans who were released on parole to quickly enter the United States due to the dire humanitarian crisis.
Mr Cotton has argued that ending the benefit is reasonable as Afghans who have been granted special visas to assist the US military are only allowed to receive such benefits for eight months.
The amendment would also delete from the language of the law that would waive certain requirements for obtaining driver’s licenses or identification cards, making it easier for Afghan refugees to obtain them. Those on parole are missing some of the documentation required under the REAL ID Act, which was drafted after the September 11 terrorist attacks to improve the safety of commercial airlines.
His amendment also requires the Department of Homeland Security to speed up processing Afghan asylum applications, extend the deadline for conducting an initial interview with an applicant to 15 days instead of 45 days, and require the Department to deliver within 150 days. make a decision on the submission of the application.
Ohio Republican Senator Rob Portman said the amendment would ensure Afghan evacuees are “properly vetted.” But New Hampshire Democrat Senator Jeanne Shaheen claimed the amendment wasn’t necessary, saying the evacuees were already being vetted and it was only blocking much-needed benefits for those in dire need of help.
Senator Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat and chairman of the credit committee, praised the bill’s provisions to help Afghan evacuees in a speech on the Senate floor before the vote. He urged his colleagues to vigorously oppose Mr Cotton’s proposal and other Republican amendments, warning that accepting any proposal could delay the process and result in a government shutdown. .
“It provides critical assistance to Afghan refugees fleeing the Taliban in the wake of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan,” he said of the financing bill. “Many of those refugees worked with American troops and helped us.”