Several congressional Republicans have spoken out against President Donald Trump’s immigration and refugee restrictions, reflecting unease within the president’s party about the direction he is taking in his first weeks in office.
But it was not immediately clear if such internal opposition to Trump policy signals a crack in broader Republican support for the new president as he takes several controversial turns in steering his administration in the post-Barack Obama era.
By Monday, at least 30 Republicans in the senate and house of representatives had publicly opposed or criticized the executive order signed last Friday which led to the detention of more than 100 people at US airports and mass protests in many cities, and prompted a near unanimous castigation by Democrats.
Trump’s executive order at the conclusion of his first week in office bars US entry for travellers from seven mainly Muslim countries -- Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen -- for 90 days.
It also suspends the arrival of all refugees for at least 120 days, and Syrian refugees indefinitely.
Top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer, who like several Democratic lawmakers met with newly arrived refugees at the weekend to highlight what they see as the danger of Trump’s order, warned on the Senate floor that the “ill-conceived” order would only “encourage lone wolves here in America.”
Schumer urged a vote on a bill that would rescind Trump’s temporary arrival ban. His effort was blocked, but numerous Republicans have called out the new president over the action.
“There was an executive order that was put in place that was overly broad, and it needs to be fixed,” Senator Cory Gardner, a Republican on the senate foreign relations committee, told reporters, adding that he did not know about the order ahead of time.
That committee’s chairman, senator Bob Corker, said he too was in the dark until Trump signed the document in a ceremony broadcast live on US television.
Clean it up
Corker’s remarks suggested he believed the administration fumbled the roll out of the document, which reportedly was not cleared by relevant senior officials such as the secretary of homeland security.
“Hopefully they’re going to take action themselves over the next several days to help clean it up,” Corker said, adding that Congress may draft legislation to scale back the order if needed.
Senator John McCain, an occasional harsh critic of Trump, issued a statement on Sunday warning the order could serve as a “self-inflicted wound” in the US fight against terrorism.
He moderated his criticism on Monday, after the White House clarified over the weekend that holders of green cards, which makes them legal US residents, would not be affected by the measure.
“But again, I worry a lot about our interpreters who literally put their lives in danger, and are not allowed to come to the United States,” McCain told reporters.
Iraqi citizens who served as translators for US troops have been recipients of special immigrant visas, but they have been lumped into those affected by the travel ban.
The Hill newspaper published a running tally of 39 Republican members of Congress who have publicly expressed opposition to Trump’s move.
Many had complained that the administration did not have its ducks in order, acting too hastily as it rolled out a controversial step that critics have blasted as a religious test for refugees aimed at barring entry to Muslims, something Trump expressed support for early in his presidential campaign.
“While not explicitly a religious test, it comes close to one which is inconsistent with our American character,” Republican senator Lamar Alexander said in a statement.
Several Republicans, including congressman Mike Kelly, pushed back against the notion that Trump had instituted such a test for refugees.
“I respectfully but strongly disagree with the criticism that this order is discriminatory against any group of people other than actual terrorists,” he said Monday. “I would not support a law or policy that undermines our founding principles of liberty and justice for all.”