White House scrambles to regain control of refugee debate – Politico


Democrats who voted for an anti-refugee bill complain the Obama administration has failed so far to make its case.

The White House, caught flat-footed this week as President Barack Obama visited Asia, is scrambling to regain control of the debate on allowing Syrian refugees into the U.S. and to slow legislation that it says would be against American values.

In the days since a group of attackers unleashed a night of terror in Paris, Republicans have zeroed in on the threat that Syrian refugees could pose if fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant slipped in with them and have fast-tracked legislation that would tighten the screening process.

Dozens of Democrats, fearful of voting against such security measures, have joined the GOP effort, and they’re publicly grumbling about subpar messaging from the White House.

But now the Obama administration has cranked up a multifront effort to halt the legislation and try to reclaim the conversation around the thousands of refugees who were due to be resettled in the U.S. next year.

Vice President Joe Biden, who has kept a relatively low profile since announcing he’s not entering the 2016 presidential race, used sharp language Thursday to warn that the United States’ promise of possibility and optimism, including toward those seeking refuge, is slipping away and endangering the country’s “soul.”

“It’s always been true in this country. And if we ever lose that, then we will have lost something incredibly special and consequential here in the United States. We’ll have lost the soul of the country, and I would argue we’re in danger of losing it now. That’s why I’m here,” Biden said during a speech in front of the Aspen Institute Summit on Inequality and Opportunity at the Newseum in Washington.

Attorney General Loretta Lynch and FBI Director James Comey also hastily pulled together a press conference to reassure jittery Americans and try to turn around the conversation about the refugees.

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