The US House of Representatives voted Thursday to ban Syrian and Iraqi migrants from entering the United States until stricter screening measures are in place, following the Islamic State (ISIS) Paris attacks in which at least one terrorist entered as a "refugee."
The Republican legislation, the first congressional response to last week's attacks, passed overwhelmingly, 289 to 137, with nearly four dozen Democrats bucking their president to support the measure.
The bill now heads to the Senate, where its fate is uncertain. Should it pass the upper chamber, the White House has said President Barack Obama would veto the bill.
"Being generous does not mean we have to have a weak process for screening refugees," number two House Republican Kevin McCarthy told the chamber shortly before the bill's passage.
The bill would prevent migrants from Iraq and Syria from reaching US shores until background checks are implemented as part of the screening process for each refugee.
It would also require directors of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Department of Homeland Security, and Director of National Intelligence to personally certify that each new settler would not be a threat to national security.
Such a step, Democrats claim, would be a logistical nightmare for department heads who should be focusing more directly on stopping the Islamic State group and other extremists.
But Republicans defend the measure as a necessary, common-sense step after the terror strikes in Paris that murdered 129 people and injured hundreds more.
"Today is not the day to share our territory," a somber Financial Services Committee chairman Jeb Hensarling told House members.
Democrats took to the House floor to argue that US migrant vetting is already the most stringent in the world, with investigations by several federal agencies taking an average 18 to 24 months.
House Democrat Jerrold Nadler struck out at the legislature meant to defend US citizens from an influx of terrorists, saying, "we might as well take down the Statue of Liberty."
AFP contributed to this report.