The Republican House easily passed a bill Thursday that would stop Syrian and Iraqi refugees from streaming into the U.S. at 100,000 a clip, until key national security agencies and the FBI certify they don’t pose a security risk.
President Obama has promised to veto the legislation, saying “They don’t pose a risk;” but with 47 Democrats joining 242 Republicans in favor of the bill, it could override the veto.
“We are not well served when, in response to a terrorist attack, we descend into fear and panic,” Obama said in the Philippines on Wednesday. “We don’t make good decisions if it’s based on hysteria or an exaggeration of risks.”
Meanwhile, over in the Senate, Harry Reid on Thursday said Democrats will attempt to block it. “We’ve explained here in some detail. The problem is not with refugees,” Reid said when asked if Democrats could support the House bill. “I don’t think we will be dealing with it over here.”
Reid’s language suggests Democrats will use the power of their 46 seats to block the House bill from getting the 60 votes it would need to clear procedural hurdles in the Senate.
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, is now blocking progress on a spending bill for transportation and housing programs that is currently on the floor because he is insisting on getting a vote on his amendment that is aimed at preventing Syrian refugees from entering the United States.
GOP leaders and bill managers oppose having a refugee vote on this bill because they say it is unrelated and want to deal with that issue later.
Unless the GOP presidential candidate relents, this may delay passage of the underlying funding bill until after the Thanksgiving recess when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell can take the time consuming procedural steps to overcome Paul’s objections.
Also Thursday, Sen. Ted Cruz attempted to quickly move two bills of his that would address the refugee laws. One bill would force Americans who join overseas terrorist groups to renounce their U.S. citizenship; a second would “immediately bar refugees” from any country “including Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Syria, or Yemen, that contains territory substantially controlled by a foreign terrorist organization,” with exceptions for groups that are victims of genocide, Cruz’s office said.
The bills were blocked by Democrats who denied the Texas Republican’s request for unanimous consent to pass the measures.