As the U.S. rushes to evacuate Americans and allies from the chaos of Afghanistan, a growing number of Republicans are questioning why the U.S. should take in Afghan citizens who worked side by side with Americans, further exacerbating divides within the party heading into next year’s midterm elections.
Little more than a week ago, as the Taliban’s stunning takeover of Afghanistan still was snapping into focus, former President Donald Trump issued a statement saying “civilians and others who have been good to our Country … should be allowed to seek refuge.” But in more recent days, he has turned to warning of the alleged dangers posed by those desperately trying to flee their country before an end-of-month deadline.
“How many terrorists will Joe Biden bring to America?” he asked.
As Republicans level blistering criticism at Biden during his first major foreign policy crisis, some are turning to the nativist, anti-immigrant rhetoric perfected by Trump during his four years in office. It’s causing dismay among others in the party who think the U.S. should look out for those who helped the Americans over the last two decades.
“I think these false narratives that these are a bunch of terrorists are just — they’re completely baseless in reality,” said Olivia Troye, a former White House homeland security adviser who currently serves as director of the Republican Accountability Project. “There’s no basis for this at all in terms of the intelligence and national security world.”
Neil Newhouse, a veteran Republican pollster, said the rhetoric reflects “a general, overall increase” in concern in the country over the risk of terrorist threats after Afghanistan’s fall to the Taliban — not just in the short term from those who may not have been properly vetted, but a year or two down the road.
“There’s just a sense that we are less safe as a country as a result of this,” he said.
The Biden administration has stressed that every person cleared to come to the U.S. is being thoroughly vetted by officials working around the clock. But the refugees have become an emerging flash point, with Trump and his followers loudly demanding that Americans be prioritized for evacuation and warning of the potential dangers posed by Afghans being rescued in one of the world’s largest-ever civilian airlift operations.
That talk intensified Thursday after a suicide bombing ripped through the crowd at the Kabul airport, killing 13 U.S. service members and well over 150 Afghans.
“How many American military personnel have to die to evacuate unvetted refugees?” tweeted Rep. Matt Rosendale, R-Mont. “Get American citizens out and bring our troops home.”
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, on Friday toured the Doña Ana Range complex at Fort Bliss, where many refugees will be housed, and later tweeted the U.S. “should rescue Afghans who’ve assisted the US military, but they should go to a neutral & safe third country.”
“They should NOT come to US w/o a FULL security vetting,” he said.
That followed a call Wednesday by Kentucky Rep. James Comer, the top Republican on the House Oversight and Reform committee, for the administration to brief lawmakers on their efforts to vet Afghan refugees and prevent terrorists from entering the country.
“In the chaotic situation left in the wake of the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan, we are particularly concerned that terrorists and others who wish to harm the United States may seek to infiltrate the country disguised as those who provided assistance to coalition forces in Afghanistan,” he wrote in letters to the secretaries of state and homeland security.
Still others, including Republican governors and members of Congress, have taken a different stance, welcoming refugees to their states and working furiously to help those trying to flee. On Capitol Hill, the effort to help Afghan friends and family of constituents is the rare undertaking that is consuming legislative offices of members of both parties.
The U.S. has evacuated more than 100,000 people from Afghanistan since the airlift began Aug. 14, including more than 5,100 American citizens. While the administration’s explicitly stated priority is to evacuate Americans, the numbers reflect the demographics of those trying to flee.
U.S. officials believe about 500 American citizens who want to leave Afghanistan remain in the country; others are believed to want to stay. And many of the Afghans, including those who served as American interpreters and fixers and in other support capacities, are desperate to escape, fearing they will be prime targets for retribution by the Taliban once the U.S. leaves.
But that hasn’t stopped Republicans from accusing the Biden administration of failing to put Americans first.
“We’re actually prioritizing Afghan refugees more than we’re prioritizing our own citizens,” said Republican J.D. Vance, who is running for Senate in Ohio and has made repeat television appearances blasting the administration’s approach.
On Fox Business Network, he claimed, without evidence, that the U.S. has “no knowledge” of 90% of the people being evacuated and said some have shown up on wide-ranging terror databases.
“They put Americans last in every single way, but Americans pay for it all,” echoed Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., who has shot to prominence with incendiary statements.
Trump and his former policy adviser Stephen Miller, along with conservative commentators like Tucker Carlson, have taken things even further, using the same anti-immigrant language that was the hallmark of Trump’s 2015 speech announcing his candidacy for the Republican nomination.
“You can be sure the Taliban, who are now in complete control, didn’t allow the best and brightest to board these evacuation flights,” Trump said. “Instead, we can only imagine how many thousands of terrorists have been airlifted out of Afghanistan and into neighborhoods around the world.”
Carlson has warned about Afghans invading America.
The rhetoric underscores the transformation of a party once led by neoconservatives who championed interventionist nation-building policies and invaded Afghanistan — followed by Iraq — nearly 20 years ago.
But not Republicans all are on board.
Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., whose office has been working around the clock to rescue the “countless” Afghans he says deserve evacuation, chastised those in his party invoking “terrorist” rhetoric.
“I would say that they need to do their homework,” he said. “When you talk to the people that we’ve spoken with, when you look at their service record … when you recognize that they sleep in the same tents, they carry arms together, they’ve been in live firefights, how dare anyone question whether or not they deserve to come to this country or to a safe third country?”
“We’re not talking about just walking down the street and picking and choosing people,” Tillis added. “We know these people. We know who their children are. We know what their service record was. And quite honestly, somebody taking that position, each and every time they do, is insulting a service member who considers these people like brothers and sisters.”
Many of the Afghans seeking to come to the U.S. are doing so under the Special Immigrant Visa program designed specifically for individuals who worked with U.S. forces. Adam Bates, policy counsel at the International Refugee Assistance Project, said that, due to their work, those individuals were extensively vetted by U.S. authorities before applying to the program — and are again extensively vetted “by a wide array of federal agencies” before the visas are granted.
Troye, who has spent significant time on the ground in Afghanistan over the years, said Americans became extremely close to the Afghans with whom they served.
“These people became like family to many of us,” she said. “It’s really shameful to see some of these Republicans speaking in this way about people who really risked their lives to help us, who were really our allies on the ground.”
Dems Fear Biden’s Domestic Agenda Could Implode
Internal Democratic discord has wounded President Joe Biden’s massive social spending plan, raising the prospect that the package could stall out, shrink dramatically — or even fail altogether.
Myriad problems have arisen. Moderate Senate Democrats Joe Manchin (W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.) continue to be a major headache for party leadership’s $3.5 trillion target. The Senate parliamentarian just nixed the party’s yearslong push to enact broad immigration reform. House members may tank the prescription drugs overhaul the party has run on for years. And a fight continues to brew over Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-Vt.) push to expand Medicare.
“If any member of Congress is not concerned that this could fall apart, they need treatment,” said Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.), who warned his party “will pay for it at the polls” if it fails in enacting Biden’s agenda. “Our caucus has the feeling of freedom to support or oppose leadership.”
Those headwinds threaten to sap the momentum from this summer, when Biden clinched a bipartisan infrastructure deal in the Senate and found support from all corners of his party for a budget setting up his sweeping spending bill. Now, Manchin is calling for a pause, moderates are resisting key components of the legislation and a new fiscal fight over the debt limit is heating up.
Those dynamics have Democrats essentially looking for an internal reset from a monthslong debate over Biden’s agenda that keeps publicly playing out through leaks, lines in the sand and fights over the topline number.
“I wish that we could all be more on the same page, in terms of timing, of the need to push the [American Families Plan],” said Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii). “I’m hopeful we are going to have a meeting of the minds and not wait until next year … we better have a Plan B.”
The multi-problem pileup comes at a critical moment for the party and for Biden, who needs a legislative win amid slumping approval ratings. But though polls show much of his social spending bill is popular outside Congress, winning approval among Democrats’ slim majorities has been harder.
With a three-vote margin in the House and a 50-50 split in the Senate, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer can’t afford to alienate either wing of their fractious party or else the chances for either of Biden’s signature domestic victories could evaporate all together.
“None of us know where this is gonna go,” said Rep. Dean Phillips (D-Minn.). “This is where leadership is made or broken, plain and simple. And that’s true of the president, that’s true of speakers, that’s true of majority leaders.”
Manchin has been the most outspoken Democrat, publicly asking for a pause on the big spending bill with inflation rising, but the West Virginian declined to lay out his thinking Monday night when asked just how long he wants his party to put the brakes on: “Let’s see if you understand English: not a word.”
It’s unclear exactly how many Democrats are siding with prominent House and Senate moderates. One centrist Democrat up for reelection next year, Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), declined to say whether she’s comfortable with the $3.5 trillion spending number on Monday, or whether she agrees with pausing the legislation.
“We are at a critical moment,” said Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin. “The total amount to be spent has to be negotiated with those who are questioning the $3.5 trillion. So, this is the key week.”
Democrats are broadly rejecting Manchin’s overtures to stall the social spending plan, arguing doing so is akin to killing the bill. If Democrats don’t keep positive momentum behind their effort to fight climate change, improve child care and raise taxes on the wealthy, they worry that the whole thing could fall apart.
“You can’t stop this process. If you stop it it won’t get started again,” said Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.). “You’ve really got to keep it moving, there’s no magic date, but as you get closer and closer to other deadlines, this one gets more difficult.”
For progressives, the dissension over a bill they see as vital for delivering on their party’s priorities is enough for some to weigh tanking the bipartisan infrastructure bill negotiated by centrist Democratic senators. Many on the left say they’ve already compromised by agreeing to a $3.5 trillion spending bill rather than $6 trillion or more proposed by progressive leaders like Sanders and Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.).
What’s more, the party’s long-running goal of enacting immigration reform is now in major doubt, as there may be no path to including legal status in the reconciliation bill and bipartisan talks have repeatedly stalled out. Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) acknowledged “the immigration stuff is a setback, but certainly not a death knell.”
And progressives have grown increasingly annoyed by what they see as grandstanding by Manchin and Sinema. Just as behind-the-scenes negotiations on the social bill get underway, one of the two prominent moderates keep blasting out statements that jolt the talks and stall what progress has been made, they say.
“I am very tired of it,” said Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.). “I don’t think they are making their decisions based on the needs of the American or even the people in their own state.” He added that they seem more motivated by “corporate interest.”
But Democrats close to the centrists say progressives are vastly overplaying their hand. A group of five to 10 House moderates have signaled to leadership that they would be willing to let the infrastructure bill fail rather than be held hostage by liberals over the broader spending bill. It’s a more attractive alternative to them than having to vote for painful tax increases to pay for an unrestrained social safety net expansion, according to a person familiar with the discussions.
“I think it would be counterproductive to reconciliation,” said centrist Rep. Ed Case (D-Hawaii), speaking about progressive threats to tank the bipartisan bill without the broader spending plan.
“This fiction that linking the two bills will somehow enact leverage on the reconciliation side — I think it’s just that, a fiction.”
Despite the Democratic handwringing, a spokesperson for Biden said the administration is lobbying an array of members and “good progress is being made.
”The administration is “articulating the need to invest in families over big corporations at this crucial inflection point and ensure our economy delivers for the middle class,” said Andrew Bates, a White House spokesperson.
Meanwhile, progressives are not as united as the smaller, tight-knit band of House and Senate moderates that forced votes on the $550 billion bipartisan infrastructure bill in the Senate this summer and a commitment for one in the House next week. The Progressive Caucus has a sprawling membership that is unlikely to vote in lockstep — and may not have the oomph to tank the bill if House Republicans help pass the bipartisan legislation.
“There is absolutely a level where it’s not just something is not better than nothing, but something can actually do more harm,” said Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) of the infrastructure bill. “That’s why we are holding firm on our line. …This isn’t just a flight of fancy.”
Trump Ripped Into President Joe Biden’s Afghanistan Withdrawal
Former President Donald Trump ripped into President Joe Biden’s Afghanistan withdrawal saying the actions were “indefensible.”
His comments came during an interview on Glenn Beck’s radio show on Tuesday.
Asked if the current administration was following his withdrawal plans, Trump said, “No. Not even a little bit — and we had a great plan. It was based on many conditions. For instance, you can’t kill American soldiers.”
He said he warned the Taliban that “if you kill any Americans or any American soldiers, we’re going to hit you harder than any country has ever been hit before.”
“For approximately 18 months, not one American soldier was killed,” he said. “You have to understand I did want to get out with dignity and I wanted to take our equipment out and I didn’t want to get soldiers killed.”
He said he has spoken to “numerous” parents of those American soldiers who died in a bomb blast at the Kabul airport during the withdrawal.
“They will only speak to me,” Trump said. “They won’t speak to Biden because they view what he did as having killed their child. What he did was just indefensible. He took the military out first and he left all these people. And we became beggars to get the people out.”
Trump noted Apache helicopters were also left behind.
“These are really expensive weapons,” he said. “They (the Taliban) have 28 of them. And they’re brand new. They’re the latest model. Why wouldn’t (the Biden administration) bring pilots in to fly out the planes or helicopters. It would have taken them an hour.”
Trump noted European nations respected the U.S. greatly during his administration.
“Now, they don’t,” he said. “They’re laughing at us like we’re fools. And the way (Biden) got out of Afghanistan was, in my opinion, I think it was the most embarrassing event in the history of our country.
“If you get out of Afghanistan, you leave with great dignity. You leave with your weapons. We could have had our soldiers saved, our people out, everything beautiful …”
Trump also blasted Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
“Peril,” a new book by journalists Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, claims Milley had sought to assure China’s Gen. Li Zuocheng of the People’s Liberation Army in calls that the United States was stable and not going to attack during the final months of the Trump administration. And, if there were to be an attack, he would alert his counterpart ahead of time.
“I learned early on (Milley) was a dope,” Trump said.
Ted Cruz Slams The Democrats In Latest Interview
Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas recently slammed the Democrats for bowing down to their radical left-wing comrades in office as they prepare to pass a massive $3.5 trillion budget that will bring our nation economic difficulties in the years to come.
“Bernie Sanders is a wide-eyed and admitted socialist. He says this is the most transformational bill in a generation. He means that it; it is trillions in spending. It is trillions in new taxes. It is the Green New Deal, it is — everyone who pays taxes in America will see their taxes go up under this massive proposal. Individual taxes are going up, corporate taxes are going up, small business taxes are going up, capital gains taxes are going up, the death tax is going up, seniors are getting hammered, farmers, ranchers, small businesses; it is disastrous,” Cruz stated in his scathing interview.
The plan of the Biden administration to impose severe tax hikes will indeed hurt not only the corporations but small businesses and even retail investors. The pandemic has put a heavy strain on the financial well-being of the average American and this taxation plan can destroy their goal to preserve the value of their hard-earned money. Inflation is a beast that will hurt us all and increased taxes will further complicate matters for our troubled economy.
“Whether it passes or not will depend on 50 Democrats in the Senate. Do they get Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema to go along? I can tell you Chuck Schumer is putting a world of hurt and pressure on the two of them. I hope they stand their ground, that they have demonstrated some real courage so far, standing up to the crazies in their party,” Cruz said, praising a couple of Democrats for bravely going against the grain.
The former Texas Solicitor General also hit president Biden for trying to divert attention from his epic Afghanistan blunder, by imposing more strict vaccine mandates.
“They want to change the topic from Afghanistan. It’s why Biden issued this completely illegal and unconstitutional vaccine mandate, because he wanted to change the topic from the disaster in Afghanistan,” Cruz said.
“The vaccine mandate is going to be struck down in court. They know that, but the president is defying the law because he wanted the press to start defending him and stop talking about the disasters in Afghanistan. And he’s counting on a bunch of big businesses in particular, forcing their employees to comply before the matter is ever adjudicated. And before the order is struck down,” Cruz added.
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