House Democrats handed Speaker Paul Ryan a veto-proof majority on the legislation Thursday, despite Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer voting against. Like his House counterparts, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid has said he will seek to protect Obama’s veto, promising that the bill would fail if it came up in the Senate.
“The problem is not with refugees,” Reid said Thursday. “I don’t think we’ll be dealing with it over here.”
Still, Republicans are hoping the public pressure builds. Polling shows more than half of Americans want the government to block Syrian refugees' entry in light of the ISIS attacks on Paris last week. Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, who is on the GOP task force looking at how to respond to the Paris attacks, said the omnibus would be the next logical place to push the issue, and the bipartisan vote strengthens the GOP’s hand.
“This bill is probably not the ultimate final [bill]. This is the start to a process that has got to be combined and finished by the time we leave here in two weeks,” Nunes said. “It will be something based on this that will get done by the end of the year, no matter where it has to go.”
Republican leaders, however, are under pressure from conservatives and outside groups to choke off funding to agencies tasked with admitting refugees. If they push too far on a spending rider—for instance, with a blanket ban on refugees—they could lose Democratic support. If they craft a narrow measure that mirrors the House-passed bill, they could walk away with a political victory.
Several of the bill’s Democratic supporters are already balking at the strategy of rolling it into the omnibus package. “If this bill doesn't go anywhere, I think it's unwise to roll it into an omnibus if you don't have to,” Rep. Gerald Connolly said. “The omnibus is going to be complicated enough. ... We don't need, however worthy, other policy riders that just make life more difficult.”
Rep. Henry Cuellar, who also backed the bill and is a member of the Appropriations Committee, said he’s seen enough funding fights break down over unrelated amendments. “I don't like controversial riders on that,” he said. “I don't think this language will go in the [spending] bill.”
Others were hopeful that the strong bipartisan support in the House would cause Obama to change his mind on the standalone measure. “I'm hopeful he won't veto it,” said Rep. David Scott. “I'm hopeful that we can come to some agreement here.”
Although many Republicans have been calling on Ryan and leaders to include a measure in an omnibus, others have urged caution. Rep. Trent Franks, a member of the House Freedom Caucus, said having Democrats on their side sets the issue apart from other, more partisan appropriations rider attempts, but that will only take Republicans so far.