Paris attacks, Syrian refugee policy dominate Congress

The terrorist attacks in Paris overshadowed almost everything in Washington this week, with a flurry of classified briefings by top Obama administration officials for members of Congress – and some politicking. The week ended with the House of Representatives voting for an overhaul of the nation’s refugee programs for Iraq’s and Syrians. But Congress was able to finish work on a new education bill that will replace the controversial “No Child Left Behind” act that has set federal education policy for 13 years.

Washington logoSyrian refugee issue embroils Congress

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy stood firm as fellow governors, mostly Republican, said they would no longer relocate refugees from Syria in their states. The governors were reacting to a belief that one of the terrorist attackers in Paris traveled to Europe with a group of Syrian refugees. The issue embroiled Congress in a battle that ended up with approval of a House GOP bill that would overhaul U.S. processing of Iraqi and Syrian refugees. Reps. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, and Jim Himes, D-4th District, broke with their party – and the other members of the Connecticut delegation to the U.S. House of Representatives, in supporting the bill.

Murphy among those pushing to tighten visa-waiver policy

Sen. Chris Murphy is a main supporter of a bill unveiled this week that would tighten the “visa waiver” program. The visa waiver program allows citizens of nearly 40 countries to visit the United States for as long as 90 days without a visa. The bill’s supporters pointed out that the Paris attackers were citizens of France or Belgium — visa-waiver countries. “Instead of focusing on the 2,000 highly vetted [Syrian refugees], we should be focusing on the lightly vetted [visa-waiver visitors],” Murphy said. The Connecticut senator has recommended the Obama administration exceed a plan to resettle 10,000 Syrian refugees in the United States this year by allowing 50,000.

Negotiators finish work on ‘No Child Left Behind’ replacement

A group of House and Senate negotiators, including Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy, finished work on a comprehensive new federal education bill that would replace the controversial “No Child Left Behind” bill. Expected to win congressional approval after Congress’s Thanksgiving break, the new bill would give back much authority for K-12 education policy to the states.

State health commissioner takes senior federal post

It was announced that Public Health Commissioner Dr. Jewel Mullen is leaving to take a senior post with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  Mullen, a primary care physician, has led the state Department of Public Health since 2011.

 

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