White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough on Wednesday said that the Obama administration is prepared to “aggressively defend” the United States’ plans to accept refugees from Syria as some American lawmakers demand that the government apply stricter background checks to refugees from Syria and Iraq.
When asked at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast in Washington, D.C. how the administration will address some lawmakers’ calls for the government to apply greater scrutiny to certain refugees entering the country, McDonough said that the administration sees the resettlement of Syrian refugees as a priority and also as a policy it will have to defend.
“My hunch is that it will continue to be controversial, for the reasons the President pointed out in the speech last night,” McDonough said.
He said that the administration will continue to make the point that accepting refugees adds “immeasurably to the national interest” and is prepared to put up a fight against those who oppose current policies.
“We’re going to get out there and aggressively defend that,” he said.
“That will be tough to beat, as it was last year,” McDonough said of the administration’s focus on accepting refugees. “And we’ll see how it goes. But we won’t shy from it.”
McDonough said that while growing up in Minnesota, his family sponsored a Vietnamese refugee family, and that he and his wife have since sponsored refugees in Washington, D.C. He said those experiences “partially motivates my own view of this.”
The chief of staff also said that the administration plans to expand the number of refugees the U.S. accepts overall and that he believes the budget passed by Congress allows them to do so.