Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., on Sunday cautioned that the United States does not have a religious test for entry into the country but stopped short of rejecting President Donald Trump’s order to halt the admission of refugees and citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries.
McConnell said that Muslims, both in the United States and abroad, are key allies in the fight against terrorism and urged caution in regard to Trump’s plan to implement “extreme vetting” for refugees from countries where a majority of the citizens are Muslim.
“I don’t want to criticize them for improving vetting,” McConnell said on ABC’s “This Week.” “I think we need to be careful. We don’t have religious tests in this country.”
The comments come after a day of silence from McConnell on the issue. He did not offer any reaction in the early hours when the order caused mass chaos and outrage as Muslims were turned away at airports across the country. Republican leaders are facing intense criticism for backing the measure, which has been interpreted by some Democrats, human rights leaders and activists as effectively a ban on Muslims.
McConnell is one of a growing number of Republicans who have urged caution in implementing the order to block citizens from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Somalia and Libya from entering the country for at least 90 days. He refused Sunday to reject Trump’s order in its entirety and left it to the courts to decide its legality.
“Ultimately it is going to be decided in the courts as to whether or not this has gone too far,” McConnell said.
Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, also stopped short of criticizing the order, but he suggested that the action wasn’t fully thought through.
“You have an extreme vetting proposal that didn’t get the vetting it should have,” Portman said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
Concerns that the order was not properly reviewed were shared by Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain, R-Ariz., who called the process “confused.”