Democrats block bill to curb the flow of refugees

Senate Democrats block Republican bill that would curb the flow of Syrian and Iraqi refugees into the United States.

Ben Ariel,

Syrian refugee holds passport (illustration)
Syrian refugee holds passport (illustration)
Reuters

Senate Democrats on Wednesday blocked consideration of a Republican bill that would curb the flow of Syrian and Iraqi refugees into the United States in order to prevent terrorists from slipping in, CNN reports.

In exchange for taking up the bill, Democrats wanted votes on amendments including one that would have forced GOP senators to go on-the-record on Donald Trump's controversial plan to ban all Muslims from entering the United States.

The 55 to 43 vote largely split down party lines and fell short of the 60 votes needed for the bill to advance.

The result means the refugee bill, which passed the House with broad bipartisan support in November, likely is dead for the year.

The bill was brought up for discussion after no less than 24 states announced they would block the program to resettle Syrian migrants within their borders, following the Paris attacks in November, in which one of the terrorists snuck into Europe with a group of Syrian refugees.

President Barack Obama had warned he would veto the bill if it made it to his desk, and also told state officials across the country that states do not have legal authority to refuse to accept Syrian refugees.

Wednesday's vote had both national security and 2016 campaign ramifications, noted CNN.

Concern about the refugees is a dominant political issue in the presidential campaign, with Republican front-runner Trump leading the charge against the Obama administration refugee program to provide a safe haven for thousands of people fleeing those war-ravaged countries.

Republican presidential candidates, Sens. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, returned to Washington to vote to advance the bill. Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Democratic presidential candidate, missed the vote.

On the Senate floor Tuesday, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell urged his colleagues to advance the measure.

"It's clear that many Americans are concerned about the administration's ability to properly vet thousands of individuals from Syria and Iraq. Elected officials in both parties have expressed concerns too, as have administration officials," he said.

"That's why many Americans are asking us to take a step back and press 'pause' on the program so we can ensure we have the correct policies and security screenings in place."

The bill would have required the FBI, Department of Homeland Security and Director of National Intelligence all to certify that individuals from Syria or Iraq -- or a refugee who has visited one of those countries in the last five years -- is not a security threat and can be admitted to the U.S.

Obama, who has pushed the Syrian refugee program despite the security concerns, struck out at Republicans in November, accusing them of demonizing "widows and orphans" and of “hysteria” following the Paris attacks.

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




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