House Dems Join GOP To Block Syrian Refugee Program

| by Amanda Andrade-Rhoades
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Though President Barack Obama threatened to veto legislation that would make it difficult for Syrian and Iraqi refugees fleeing ISIS to enter the United States, 47 House Democrats broke rank on Nov. 19 and voted in favor of the American Security Against Foreign Enemies Act, making it veto-proof in that portion of Congress.

Conversely, two Republicans voted against the bill, according to records from the Office of the Clerk for the House of Representatives.

Prior to the vote, Obama said at a summit in the Philippines that such legislation would harm some of the most vulnerable.

"We are not well served when, in response to a terrorist attack, we descend into fear and panic,” he said, according to CNN. "We don't make good decisions if it's based on hysteria or an exaggeration of risks."

The rapid shift against Syrian refugees, which was an issue originally divided along partisan lines, came after ISIS’s attack on Paris last week, which left more than 100 people dead. After the attack, even top Democrats hesitated to side with the president, The Washington Post reported.

Still, Republicans took the lead on legislation concerning Syrian refugees and criticized Obama’s handling of the issue. House Speaker Paul Ryan told CNN that there were “gaps in this refugee program," adding that "this is urgent. We cannot and should not wait to act, not when our national security is at stake."

Some Democrats defended their decision to abandon party lines by saying that the bill isn’t what most believe.

“I think a lot of us went in with open minds and really wanted to understand the administration’s position on this,” Democratic Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney of New York told Politico. “It is offensive to me that we would stigmatize refugees…but if you read the bill what you find is that you have a pretty simple certification process sitting on top of an existing and extensive screening process that most of us believes works pretty well.”

Maloney did vote for the bill, but it still has to pass the Senate. Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada said he won’t let the bill make it to the White House. 

“We’ve explained here in some detail [that] the problem is not with refugees," he said Nov. 19. "I haven’t read the House language. I don’t think we’re going to be dealing with it over here.”

Sources: Office of the Clerk for the House of Representatives, CNN (2), The Washington Post, Politico 

Photo Credit: Pete Souza/Wikimedia Commons, Steve Jurvetson/Wikimedia Commons