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With Kerry on the Hill, McCain Blasts Inaction on Syrian Refugees (Video)

McCain, Kerry chat during an Armed Services Committee hearing on July 29. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
McCain, Kerry chat during an Armed Services Committee hearing on July 29. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sen. John McCain blasted the Obama administration in a Wednesday floor speech for inaction on the Syrian refugee crisis, delivering it with a chart featuring the tragic photo of 3-year-old Aylan Kurdi.  

“This photo, which was taken shortly after Aylan’s dead body was washed ashore, has opened the world’s eyes to this devastating crisis,” the Arizona Republican said. “Within hours of this photo being posted, people across the world began to share it on social media, using a hashtag in Arabic that translates to, ‘humanity washed ashore.’ This image has haunted the world. But what should haunt us even more than the horror unfolding before our eyes is the thought that the United States will continue to do nothing meaningful about it.”  

McCain criticized a statement from a National Security Council staffer who said the administration continued to evaluate the way forward, and highlighted past speeches by President Barack Obama, including remarks the president made in 2012 at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. But McCain also criticized those in the media and elsewhere referring to what’s happening as a migration.  

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“Let’s be clear: The current crisis before us is not a migrant issue. It is a mass exodus of refugees who are fleeing conflicts that this administration has refused to address for years,” McCain said.  

Secretary of State John Kerry was at the Capitol for meetings Wednesday, including with Vermont Sen. Patrick J. Leahy and other lawmakers on the Syria issue. Leahy is the ranking Democrat on the Appropriations subcommittee that funds foreign operations.  

“I believe the president has made it clear. He wants the United States, which has always taken a leadership role with respect to humanitarian issues, particularly refugees — we have to do what we can,” Kerry told reporters.  

In a statement after the meeting, Leahy said no Republican supported an amendment he offered in the Appropriations Committee this summer to restore more than $400 million in refugee aid cut from the fiscal year 2016 Senate foreign aid bill.  

“It is not too late to do the right thing,” Leahy said. “Many in Washington are looking forward to a visit later this month by Pope Francis, who just this week asked the faithful throughout Europe to shelter refugees fleeing ‘death from war and hunger.’ In the United States, we can do the same thing.”  

State-Foreign Operations Subcommittee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said Tuesday he would look to move emergency supplemental funding for the crisis, adding that if America is not willing to take on refugees, it would be time to “take the Statue of Liberty and tear it down.”  

“I just met with members this morning, and we are committed to increasing the number of refugees we can take, and we are looking hard at the number that we can specifically manage with respect to the crisis in Syria and Europe,” Kerry said Wednesday. “… But that’s being vetted fully right now, and I think at the appropriate time we’ll have a better sense of exactly what that number will be.”

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