WASHINGTON — The evenly divided Senate narrowly turned back a Republican amendment Thursday that sought to curtail assistance to Afghan refugees who were rapidly evacuated to the United States and that would have made it more difficult for them to obtain Real IDs.
Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., sought to attach the amendment to legislation to fund the government into early December, which passed later Thursday. Cotton’s amendment received 50 votes, one short of the number needed to succeed. The tally broke along partisan lines.
In addition to providing stopgap funding to keep the government open, the spending measure includes emergency funding for the resettlement of Afghan refugees who fled amid the takeover of the country by the Taliban and U.S. military exit.
Cotton’s amendment sought to cut off housing, food and medical aid, among other assistance, as of March 31, 2023, for Afghans who were granted parole to quickly enter the United States.
Cotton also sought to delete language from the spending legislation that would allow recent Afghan refugees to get driver’s licenses or identification cards without some documentation typically required.
Republicans have voiced concerns that language in the bill would allow the refugees to get Real IDs, the federally recognized identification cards that Congress mandated after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to tighten security checks at airports and federal facilities.
In a statement Thursday, former President Donald Trump urged fellow Republicans to vote against the larger spending legislation, arguing that the provisions affecting Afghan refugees amounted to “a major immigration rewrite” that would provide “free welfare and government-issued IDs.”
“We’ve already seen some of the horrible assaults and sex crimes that have taken place,” Trump said. “But these terrible assaults will just be the tip of the iceberg of what’s coming if this isn’t shut down. … This bill must be opposed.”
Trump provided no evidence for his assertions.
The funding stopgap sustains federal agencies’ existing spending until Dec. 3, at which point Congress must adopt another short-term fix, called a continuing resolution, or pass a dozen appropriations bills that fund federal agencies through the 2022 fiscal year.