GOP lawmakers slam 'carve-outs' for Iran in new visa rules

Rep. Pittenger, R-N.C., speaks out about changes to requirements on 'Your World'


This is a rush transcript from "Your World," January 22, 2016. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST:  All right, Congress is getting out of town, Washington all but shut down ahead of that big snowstorm there.

But one thing before they did and do is this visa carve-out program that the administration has orchestrated, and a lot of support, where it`s -- even if you`re coming from Iran, in certain cases, they won`t give you a special re-look over, that`s something that bothers North Carolina Republican Robert Pittenger, who played a key role in greeting released hostage Pastor Saeed Abedini, of course, who was a hostage in Iran.

Now, by that definition, if you think about it, Congressman, Abedini wouldn`t have been able to come back to the United States under stringent rules your colleagues came up with, but because of a carve-out, he could and would.  What do you make of that?  

REP. ROBERT PITTENGER, R-NORTH CAROLINA:  Well, I think he could have applied for a visa, and he could have been granted under the basis that he had been there as a hostage.  

I think it`s intended, the law is intended to prevent terrorists from entering our country.  It`s a good law.  We passed it back in early December.  It was included in the omnibus, signed -- agreed to and voted and approved by 400 members of Congress.  It was negotiated with the White House.  

And now the White House has chosen to bypass this legislation to create these carve-outs.  So, yes, there can be.

CAVUTO:  But Iran is the only one that has the carve-out.  In other words, if you are coming from or even through a place like Iran and Syria, Sudan, then, all of a sudden, they can just not accept your visa when you get to the United States, if you even get that far.

But the carve-out for Iran is interesting, because it seems to add a lot of flexibility.  What kind of flexibility?  

PITTENGER:  Well, the flexibility just enables more opportunities for Iran to be able to -- people visiting Iran to be able to come to the United States.  
CAVUTO:  Well, they say no.  


PITTENGER:  .... very stringent guidelines.  

CAVUTO:  I want to be very clear, because the administration says no.  They say that the same stringent check and recheck will be in place.

But, as I think you said and your colleagues have said, those were the same checks and rechecks that were part of the Pakistani visa policy before the woman involved in the San Bernardino attacks was able to fool authorities no less than three times before getting access to the United States.  

Having said that, what do you want to do to tighten this up?  

PITTENGER:  Well, Neil, the bill we wrote was a good bill.  

And what we have now is the interpretation of all these carve-outs that gives the administration great latitude.  Yes, we want to go back and look at it again and try to tighten it up again.  Whatever we do, the president seems to have an aversion to working with Congress.  He has a natural proclivity to writing his own laws.  We have seen that time and again.

And I think what we have got to do is go back with our members of Congress and see how -- in a bipartisan way, how we can tighten this up to make sure we can secure this country.  

CAVUTO:  All right.  But in light of the release of these hostages, two of whom were initially traveling in Iran before they were apprehended and taken as prisoners in Iran, the stringent policy that was in effect or that you wanted to go into effect would have prevented them from ever getting back here.  Right?  

PITTENGER:  Well, I think, again, they can apply for a visa.

CAVUTO:  Right.

PITTENGER:  And these things can be granted through natural application.  
Anybody can do that.

CAVUTO:  But what are the odds they would?  What are the odds they would, right?  I mean, that`s a pretty dangerous neck of the woods.

PITTENGER:  I think again, when you -- well, when you look at the people who are being granted these visas, you look at their background.  You do your background checks.  You due all your due diligence that you need to do.

And to that extent, then you have the reasonable ability for people to reenter this country.  

CAVUTO:  All right, Congressman, thanks for taking the time.  Stay warm.  

PITTENGER:  Good to be with you.  

CAVUTO:  All right, North Carolina Congressman Robert Pittenger .  


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