After the Paris terrorist attacks Republicans are waging war against President Barack Obama’s plan to admit Syrian and Iraqi refugees into the United States. The House of Representatives passed a bill suspending the refugee program and requiring an intense vetting process on Thursday, Nov. 19, 2015 with a vote of 289 to 137. The bill will now move to the Senate where it faces a battle to pass with Democrats vowing to block it and a veto threat looming large.
Even if the bill passes President Barack Obama has promised to veto it. Republicans in Congress, presidential candidates and governors all oppose admitting refuges from the two countries at the heart of terrorist organization ISIS operations. The GOP has the backing of the American public who is also reluctant of letting in these refuges because they may pose at threat to national security and the country’s safety. The showdown between Obama and Congress
The House passed the American Security Against Foreign Enemies Act, or American Safe Act with a bipartisan vote of 289 to 137 with 47 Democrats voting with 242 Republicans, and two Republicans voted against the bill. Reps. Walter Jones (N.C.) and Steve King (Iowa) were the only two Republicans opposing the bill. Among the Democrats who voted for the bill included centrist Blue Dogs, and those facing tough reelection challenges and even Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.).
The bill pauses the refugee program for those coming from ISIS hot spots Syria and Iraq and requires “the Obama administration, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security” and the Director of National Intelligence to screen, undergo extensive background checks, and then certify that those admitted do not pose a threat to the country.
The majority vote is almost veto proof, but the House needs the Senate to vote in the same terms, which does not seem likely. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid is promising to rally the Democrats against the bill, telling the press, “We’ve explained here in some detail. The problem is not with refugees.” Reid wants the 46 Senate Democrats to block the bill, “I don’t think we will be dealing with it over here.” When asked about Obama’s veto threat, Reid responded, “Don’t worry, it won’t get passed. Next question?” Instead, Senate Democrats want to introduce legislation that would “tighten up security gaps in the visa waiver program.”
Republicans needs six Democrats votes to overcome procedural hurdles to pass the bill. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has already filed to fast track to the bill, skip the committee stage and bring the bill for a procedural vote on the Senate floor. The Senate leader said it is the most reasonable course of action. McConnell explained, “It’s clear that the American people are concerned about the Administration’s ability to properly vet thousands of individuals from Syria. Given all this and given all that’s happened in Paris, it simply makes sense to take a step back for now – to press ‘pause’ – so we can determine the facts and ensure we have the correct policies and security screenings in place.”
President Obama and the White House issued a veto threat on Wednesday, Nov. 17 with strong language, stating in absolute terms that the president would never sign that bill. The threat stated, “Given the lives at stake and the critical importance to our partners in the Middle East and Europe of American leadership in addressing the Syrian refugee crisis, if the president were presented with H.R. 4038, he would veto the bill.”
While he has been abroad, President Obama has mocking the Republicans about their stance the refugees after the Paris terror attack and at the same time, he has been defending his military strategy to combat terrorist organization ISIS. Speaking in the Philippines on Wednesday, Nov. 18 President Obama said, “We are not well served when, in response to a terrorist attack, we descend into fear and panic. We don’t make good decisions if it’s based on hysteria or an exaggeration of risks.”
House Speaker Paul Ryan told the press however, he believes “this is urgent. We cannot and should not wait to act, not when our national security is at stake.” Ryan said the security measures are justified, “If our law enforcement and our intelligence community cannot verify that each and every person is not a security threat, then they shouldn’t be allowed in.”
President Obama plans to admit 10,000 Syrian refugees in the next year, but it is not only Republicans that oppose this plan so does the American public. According to a new Bloomberg politics national poll released on Wednesday, Nov. 18, 53 percent of Americans oppose resettling Syrians in the US, 28 percent believe the screening program is fine the way it is now, while 11 percent would only admit Christian Syrians, a plan Obama absolutely opposes.
The Senate will take up the bill after they return from their weeklong Thanksgiving recess. If the bill does not pass the Senate or President Obama vetoes it, Republicans have a backup plan. They are planning to vote against any omnibus spending bill that funds the refugee program for Syrian and Iraqis. If any bill does not include the added security measures Republicans will not vote for it, especially those from the Freedom Caucus. If Republicans do that they would be threatening another government shutdown, because if the spending bill is not passed by Dec. 11 the government could shutdown.