Republicans in Congress had mixed reactions in the immediate wake of President Donald Trump’s executive order Friday stopping individuals from seven countries where Islamist terrorists operate from entering the country for 90 days.
Some GOP lawmakers, such as Sens. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., and Marco Rubio, R-Fla., expressed concerns about who the order targeted and how it was implemented—but without the force of Democrats’ widespread opposition. The order also temporarily halts entry of refugees.
“The president is right to focus attention on the obvious fact that borders matter,” Sasse said in a statement issued Saturday. “At the same time, while not technically a Muslim ban, this order is too broad.”
— Senator Ben Sasse (@SenSasse) January 28, 2017
Rubio and Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., released a joint statement Sunday, saying they support vetting those who want to enter the country, but have qualms.
“After reviewing the recent executive orders, it is clear to us that some of what is being said and reported about the scope and implications of these measures is misleading,” Rubio and Scott said. “However, it is also clear that the manner in which these measures were crafted and implemented have greatly contributed to the confusion, anxiety, and uncertainty of the last few days.”
— Senator Rubio Press (@SenRubioPress) January 30, 2017
Rep. Dave Brat, R-Va., is one conservative lawmaker who supports Trump’s action.
“If you follow the facts and the figures, you get a much different story than what the press is talking about,” Brat said in a phone interview with The Daily Signal. Brat said the executive order is a “short-run vetting of migrants from seven countries that were chosen by the Obama administration and by intelligence officials because these seven countries are known to fund and train and export terror.”
Countries affected by the temporary travel ban are Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen.
Trump’s executive order also indefinitely pauses the entry of Syrian refugees into the United States, a practice his predecessor, Barack Obama, had accelerated.
In 2015, Obama also imposed restrictions on people who had visited Iran, Iraq, Sudan, or Syria on or after March 1, 2011, as CNN and others reported.
The Obama administration later added Libya, Somalia, and Yemen to the list to address what it called “the growing threat from foreign terrorist fighters,” CNN reported.
Brat said that although some object to Trump’s executive order and argue that individuals from these countries have not committed acts of terror, the executive order is well warranted.
Intelligence officials support further review of individuals traveling from the seven countries, the Virginia Republican said.
“Go ask the intelligence officers if there’s been funding streamed to terrorist groups from these countries, if there’s been training and folks coming in and out of those counties, and they’re actually making their way here hoping to spread terror. And the answer will be a 100 percent yes,” Brat said.
Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, said the executive order is Trump’s way of making good on his campaign promises.
“[Trump] campaigned on this, he ran on this, and now he is getting to implement this,” Jordan said in an interview Monday morning with Bob Frantz, host of the radio show “The Answer” on WHK-AM, a Cleveland radio station.
Jordan, former chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, said he does not anticipate the order to provoke more violence from terrorists, and that Trump’s move “makes sense.” He said:
This idea that somehow this will make the terrorists mad, my guess is they’re already mad based on what they’ve done to our country, what they’ve done around the world. So let’s focus on common sense. … If you’re going to let [citizens of those nations] in here, you need to make sure that you have thoroughly checked them out and that they are not part of some sort of terrorist organization. I think that makes sense. Let’s make sure we do it right.
Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., also said Trump is keeping campaign promises, but acknowledged that the order could have been executed more seamlessly.
“President Trump and his administration have been taking steps to fulfill his campaign promises,” Isakson said in a statement provided to The Daily Signal, “and he’s right that we need to strengthen our national security and improve the vetting process for people coming into our country.”
While the intentions were good, Isakson said, the administration should make sure the order doesn’t hurt “law-abiding Americans.”
“I hope that President Trump will consult with the national security team he has assembled with the advice and consent of the Senate, so that security measures are properly implemented and do not infringe on the constitutional rights of law-abiding Americans,” Isakson said.
Rep. Mark Walker, R-N.C., chairman of the Republican Study Committee, said the executive order is “to ensure the safety of every American” but must be tempered with compassion. He voiced support for Trump’s move to “slow things down.”
“We have always been a compassionate nation, and will continue to be a beacon of hope and freedom for the world,” Walker said in a statement provided to The Daily Signal, adding:
The refugee resettlement program is important in keeping with that tradition. But, we also have an obligation to ensure the safety of every American. Top national security officials have admitted that the government is unable to fully vet refugees. We need to slow things down and examine the flaws in the system so that it can be strengthened.
Walker said the Trump administration should, however, quickly clarify any ambiguities.
“The language of the order should not apply to legal, permanent residents of the United States, and if it is being enforced in any other way, the administration should step in swiftly to clarify,” Walker said.
Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, said in a prepared statement Monday that Trump is using the powers vested in him by Congress and the Constitution.
“The president is acting temporarily and prudently to give his administration and Congress the much-needed time to properly evaluate the refugee program and reform it to ensure that it both helps legitimate refugees and ensures the safety of the American people,” Gohmert said.
Trump’s order is not bias, Gohmert said, but a constitutional vehicle to protect Americans.
“With this president’s action to pause refugee admissions, not based on their religion but on whether there is adequate information to determine if they are a threat, he is constitutionally acting to protect Americans,” Gohmert said.
— Louie Gohmert (@replouiegohmert) January 30, 2017
For other Republican lawmakers, however, the executive order has become a point of contention with the newly inaugurated president.
Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., released a joint statement Sunday saying the order could become counterproductive in the fight against terrorism.
“It is clear from the confusion at our airports across the nation that President Trump’s executive order was not properly vetted,” McCain and Graham said. “We are particularly concerned by reports that this order went into effect with little to no consultation with the departments of State, Defense, Justice, and Homeland Security.”
EO sends signal, intended or not, that US doesn't want Muslims here- fear it may do more to help terrorist recruitment than improve security
— John McCain (@SenJohnMcCain) January 29, 2017
Unlike McCain and Graham, Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo., said the temporary ban is justified and necessary.
“America welcomes Muslims from 190 countries and temporarily bans all individuals from seven countries,” Buck said in a statement provided to The Daily Signal. “The president’s executive order is a temporary effort that addresses a serious issue with terrorist hot spots.”