- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 3, 2015

House leaders unveiled their plan Thursday to beef up restrictions on visa waivers as part of an ongoing effort to stop terrorists from entering the United States after the Paris attacks last month.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California and fellow Democrats have signed off on the measure, which bars people who have traveled to Iraq, Syria and other countries with “significant terrorist activity” from the waiver program.

It also requires the 38 trusted waiver countries, whose citizens can enter the U.S. without visas, to issue electronic passports that contain biometric information and requires those countries to check travelers against Interpol databases in an attempt to weed out threats.

Waiver countries include France and Belgium, as well as U.S. military allies and trade partners.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, California Republican, said 5,000 people with Western passports had traveled to Iraq and Syria in recent years.

“If you look at the mastermind behind Paris, he bragged about the freedom of travel throughout Europe and the easiness of it,” Mr. McCarthy said. “We have a real concern of that ability to come to America without a check.”

The proposal comes on the heels of efforts by House Republicans to crack down on President Obama’s plan to resettle refugees from Iraq and Syria in the United States. It is slated for a vote in the House on Tuesday and is expected to pass with strong bipartisan support.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the measure includes “some positive reforms to our visa waiver program.”

“This has been the subject of ongoing conversation between administration officials and leaders on Capitol Hill, and we’re pleased to see that those talks that have been going on for a few weeks now have yielded a peaceful legislation that would actually make the country safer,” Mr. Earnest said.

Rep. Candice S. Miller, Michigan Republican and the bill’s sponsor, said travel documents have become as important to terrorist as weapons.

“That was certainly the case on 9/11, and, unfortunately, it holds true today,” Ms. Miller said. “It is imperative that we address every vulnerability that might allow terrorists to carry out another attack on U.S. soil — including vulnerabilities with our visa waiver program.”

Sens. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat, and Jeff Flake, Arizona Republican, introduced a bill this week that also pushed for tighter restrictions and includes provisions that are similar to those in the House bill.

The two parties, though, are at odds over Republican efforts to hook a proposed crackdown on the resettlement of Syrian refugees to a $1 trillion spending bill that must pass before Dec. 11 to avoid a government shutdown.



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