The US House of Representatives has approved $6.3bn in emergency assistance to help resettle Afghan refugees in the United States after the country’s evacuation operation from Kabul last month.
The funds are part of a larger $28.6bn disaster relief and stopgap government funding bill passed by the Democratic-led House on Tuesday night by a party-line vote of 220-211 – but it could face an uphill battle in the US Senate.
“This funding will ensure the government agencies involved in the resettlement process have the capacity necessary to help our Afghan allies build new lives in safety in the United States,” said Representative Deborah Ross, a House Democrat.
House Democratic leaders attached the emergency assistance to legislation to fund the US government, which faces a partial shutdown at midnight on September 30 without stopgap funding.
The bill now goes to the US Senate, where it is likely to falter because of overwhelming opposition by Republicans.
Most Republicans in Congress support the funding for Afghan refugees, thousands of whom have been resettled in the US to date, including translators and others who helped US forces over the nation’s 20-year mission in Afghanistan.
But the larger funding measure faces uncertain prospects in the US Senate, where Republicans oppose a provision increasing the amount of financial debt the US Treasury can issue.
Republicans have been particularly critical of what they describe as President Joe Biden’s “bungled” handling of the US military drawdown in Afghanistan, which was completed on August 30.
“America deserves answers about the decisions that were made, and the resulting failures of leadership that occurred at all levels,” said Representative Tom Cole, a House Republican.
More than 120,000 Afghans were evacuated from Kabul International Airport during the chaotic operation.
Days before the US withdrawal was completed, 175 Afghan civilians and 13 US military personnel were killed in a suicide bomb attack near the airport that was claimed by the Islamic State in Khorasan Province, ISKP (ISIS-K).
The House bill sets new timelines to process asylum claims by Afghans who fled the Taliban beginning in July, and requires US officials to interview refugees within 45 days of their asylum application being submitted and to issue a final decision within 150 days.
The US Department of Homeland Security also is directed to submit quarterly reports to Congress on the number and status of Afghan evacuees both in the US and at overseas US military bases, according to text of the legislation.