Many members of Congress on Wednesday called for strict screening for immigrants trying to enter the U.S., but stopped short of agreeing with President Trump's call to end the diversity lottery visa program in the wake of a terrorist attack in New York City.
Trump suggested the lottery program, which gives up to 50,000 green cards per year to immigrants from countries with low immigration levels to the U.S., after some news reports said the suspect in the attack came to the U.S. from Uzbekistan through the program.
The terrorist came into our country through what is called the "Diversity Visa Lottery Program," a Chuck Schumer beauty. I want merit based.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 1, 2017
Trump told reporters at the White House on Wednesday that he would start the process of terminating the program and said he was going to ask Congress to "immediately initiate the work to get rid of this program."
Trump also said in a tweet that he had ordered the Department of Homeland Security to ramp up "our already extreme vetting program."
Lawmakers on Wednesday agreed with the president that the U.S. should have a strong vetting process for incoming immigrants, but neither Republicans nor Democrats echoed Trump's call to end the diversity lottery visa program.
"The vetting system is more critical. Some people would like to just stop the whole lottery program. I’ve seen good come from that, I’ve seen bad now come from it. It’s not the program, it’s the way that it’s carried out," said Rep. Steve Pearce (R-New Mexico).
Tennessee Republican Rep. Chuck Fleischmann said his caucus was planning to introduce new legislation in the House to increase vetting.
"“It’s time to realize, we’ve got to be correct. Not politically correct but correct in the country, and make sure that we keep our citizens safe," he said.
Maryland Democrat Sen. Chris Van Hollen said he's always been in favor of vetting immigrants, but argued the lottery program was established by bipartisan legislation and shouldn't be thrown away without knowing all the facts.
"I think we should look at everything, but I think it’s also wrong to jump to the conclusion that something that’s been in place since 1990 is the cause of something that happened in New York City," he said.
In remarks on the Senate floor, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) said Trump was using the tragedy for political gain.
"I have always believed that immigration is good for America, I believe it today. President Trump, instead of politicizing and dividing America, which he always seems to do at times of national tragedy, should be bringing us together and focusing on the real solution – anti-terrorism funding – which he proposed to cut in his most recent budget," Schumer said.
Schumer, then a member of the House, was a sponsor for the original program that was part of an immigration package that was approved on a bipartisan basis in 1990 and signed into law by President George H.W. Bush.
In 2018, members of the Gang of 8, including Schumer, moved to end the diversity lottery visa program with a new immigration reform bill. The bill passed in the Senate but did not make it through the House.
President Trump's budget proposal calls for $600 million in cuts to certain homeland security grants to state and local law enforcement agencies, however the budget increases DHS funding overall.
WATCH: Here are the victims of the Manhattan attack.