An amendment to the defense bill that would preserve the U.S. refugee program for endangered Afghan military interpreters was blocked from a vote in the Senate late last week, prompting outrage from advocacy groups and military veterans.
The amendment to the defense authorization bill would authorize the State Department to issue up to 4,000 additional U.S. visas through the Special Immigrant Visa program. The program is designed to provide visas to Afghans who worked with the United States in Afghanistan and are now under threat from the Taliban.
The State Department has said it is on track to run out of its current allotment of visas, potentially stranding thousands of Afghan interpreters and their families who are still on the waiting list.
After a dispute over which proposed amendments should be voted on, the Senate moved on Friday morning to end debate and proceed to vote on the defense authorization bill without added inclusions.
Supporters of the Afghan visa amendment said the final hope to get it passed is on Monday, when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will attempt to introduce some of the hundreds of amendments that were blocked this week. It would likely need to pass by unanimous consent.
But if that fails, they said it would be the first time in four years that Congress has failed to issue new visas for the program. In prior years, Congress has provided for additional visas through the National Defense Authorization Act. Two Republicans, Sen. Chuck Grassley and Sen. Jeff Sessions, opposed the inclusion of additional visas in the current bill.