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Here’s what Republicans are saying (and not saying) about Trump’s refugee ban

Since President Donald Trump signed an executive order temporarily banning all refugees and immigrants, including U.S. green card holders, from seven Muslim-majority countries, people across the globe have made their opinions heard online and in the streets. By Saturday afternoon, more people had tweeted about Trump and the ban than they did about the recent inauguration and women’s march combined, according to a Twitter spokesperson.


But one group of people has been noticeably reticent to speak up: congressional Republicans. Instead of supporting their party’s president or criticizing him, they have largely shunned the media spotlight on a controversial ban that affects travel to the U.S. from Syria, Iran, Somalia, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, and Sudan. Below, we’ve compiled a summary of where prominent Republicans stand on Trump’s refugee ban:

GOP lawmakers who haven’t taken a position

As of Sunday afternoon, 251 of the 292 Republicans in Congress haven’t taken any position or have been silent on the executive order, according to a tally by Vox.

Twenty of the 292 Republicans in Congress have expressed support for the executive order. Many of these lawmakers had previously denounced Trump’s call on the campaign trail for a Muslim ban. All of the seven countries affected by this ban are majority-Muslim and Trump said on Friday that Christian refugees would be given priority over Muslim ones. Still, these Republicans maintained that this executive order is not a “religious test,” since many Muslim-majority countries are not included. Here are some highlights from their statements:

  • House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis.: “President Trump is right to make sure we are doing everything possible to know exactly who is entering our country.”
  • Sen.Tom Cotton, R-Ark.: “Whatever the media and liberal politicians may say, I’m confident that, under Secretary Kelly’s leadership, these measures will help keep America safe.”


The Republicans who have criticized the ban

So far, just over a dozen Republicans in Congress have criticized the ban at all. Most of that criticism has either been muted or came from Trump’s frequent critics. A notable exception was Senator Rob Portman of Ohio, who told CNN Sunday morning that “This was an extreme vetting program that wasn’t properly vetted.” Here are some of the other highlights from this group:

  • Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., joint statement: “Ultimately, we fear this executive order will become a self-inflicted wound in the fight against terrorism…Our most important allies in the fight against ISIL are the vast majority of Muslims who reject its apocalyptic ideology of hatred. This executive order sends a signal, intended or not, that America does not want Muslims coming into our country. ”
  • Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah: “People who have a green card supposedly already have been vetted. There needs to be some further clarification.”
  • Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah: “I strongly urge the new administration to move quickly to tailor its policy on visa issuance as narrowly as possible.”

How Republicans outside of Congress reacted

Republicans lawmakers outside of Congress also weighed in on the executive order:

  • Gov. Robert Bentley, R-Ala.: “Certainly those who are persecuted, especially Christians, in extreme terrorist nations must be able to seek a place of safe refuge, through proper channels. However we cannot ignore the process set in place already, and we simply cannot risk placing American’s or Alabamian’s lives in danger. President Trump is right to stop this very flawed process until extreme vetting can take place.”
  • Gov. Jon Kasich, R-Ohio: “We must strengthen our nation’s security through well-thought-out and constructed plans. The latest executive order is neither.”

The conservative media is divided on the ban

And conservative media has also weighed in with a variety of perspectives that mimic the divide among GOP lawmakers. Some previously anti-Trump publications like the National Review, which published an entire issue denouncing Trump a year ago, were rather generous to Trump’s order. Other more sympathetic publications were more critical. Breitbart (owned by Trump adviser Steve Bannon) backed up Trump and denounced the opposition to the executive order as a “media-fueled uproar” in “activist hotbeds of the country.”

  • The Washington Examiner editorial board: “This is inhumane, unjust, and irrational. Trump should put the rule on ice, go through the proper rule-making process, and issue a sensible written rule with appropriate input from the nation’s homeland security, law enforcement, and counterterrorism officials.”
  • National Review’s David French, who briefly considered mounting a conservative third-party presidential bid to stop Trump: “So, what did Trump do? Did he implement his promised Muslim ban? No, far from it. He backed down dramatically from his campaign promises and instead signed an executive order dominated mainly by moderate refugee restrictions and temporary provisions aimed directly at limiting immigration from jihadist conflict zones.”
  • The cash-flush Koch Brothers network also weighed in Sunday evening with a statement, per the Washington Post: “The travel ban is the wrong approach and will likely be counterproductive…Our country has benefited tremendously from a history of welcoming people from all cultures and backgrounds. This is a hallmark of free and open societies.”