US House votes to curb Syrian refugees, snubs Obama

2015-11-20 05:31
The US Capitol building at dusk in Washington. (Evan Vucci, AP)

The US Capitol building at dusk in Washington. (Evan Vucci, AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Washington - The House ignored a veto threat from President Barack Obama on Thursday and overwhelmingly approved Republican legislation erecting fresh hurdles for Syrian and Iraqi refugees trying to enter the United States, a stinging rebuke to the president by Republicans as well as members of his own party.

Dozens of Democrats joined Republicans as the House passed the measure 289-137. That margin exceeded the two-thirds majority required to override a veto, and it came despite a rushed, early visit to Congress by top administration officials in a futile attempt to limit Democratic defections for the measure.

Thursday's vote came six days after a burst of bombings and shootings in Paris killed 129 people, wounded many more and revived post-Sept. 11 jitters in the US and Europe. The attacks have turned the question of admitting people fleeing war-torn Syria and Iraq into a high-stakes political issue in both the United States and Europe, and many congressional Democrats were willing to vote against their party's president for fear of angering voters nervous about security at home.

Democrats opposing the Republican bill said the US has no business abandoning its age-old values, including being a safe haven for people fleeing countries racked by violence. The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for the Paris attacks and controls vast swathes of Syria and Iraq, despite a growing military campaign against them by the US and other nations.

"Defeating terrorism should not mean slamming the door in the faces of those fleeing the terrorists. We might as well take down the Statue of Liberty," said Representative Jerrold Nadler, a Democrat.

Republicans said that in dangerous times, the government must first protect its own.

"It is against the values of our nation and the values of a free society to give terrorists the opening they are looking for" by not tightening entry restrictions, said House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a Republican.

Before Thursday's House vote, the White House sent chief of staff Denis McDonough and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson to the Capitol to try winning over Democrats. Democratic aides said Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, a Democrat, had a forceful exchange with Johnson, saying that opposition to the bill would be a terrible vote for Democrats that could cost them seats in next year's elections.

With the House's 246 Republicans ready to solidly support the legislation, the administration was eager to keep the final tally for the bill below the two-thirds margin required to override a veto. In a sign of the conflicting political undercurrents confronting Democrats, senior House Democrats said they did not push rank-and-file lawmakers to oppose the bill.

"I've said to them from the start, 'Nobody's asked you to do anything. Do whatever works for you, for your district,'" House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat. who opposed the legislation, told journalists.

Freshman Representative Brad Ashford, a Democrat who faces a tough re-election fight next year, called the Paris attacks "a game changer" and supported the bill, saying, "I cannot sit back and ignore the concerns of my constituents and the American public."

The measure, which in effect would suspend admissions of Syrian and Iraqi refugees, would require the FBI to conduct background checks on people coming to the US from those countries. It would oblige the heads of the FBI and Homeland Security Department and the director of national intelligence to certify to Congress that each refugee "is not a threat to the security of the United States."

On the campaign trail, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said the US should welcome refugees from the region and bolster America's defences and intelligence operations.

On the Senate floor, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican who hasn't yet scheduled debate on the issue, said Thursday it is time "to press pause" so policy makers could decide whether adequate vetting procedures are in place, calling it "the most responsible thing for the administration to do right now."

Minority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat, said he's been disgusted in recent days by the comments from Republicans and called it "fear-mongering and bigotry."

Read more on:    us  |  syria  |  migrants

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

Inside News24


Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.