A House-passed bill that would impose new rules on the intake of refugees from Iraq and Syria failed to advance in the Senate Wednesday, when at least 45 senators voted to block debate on the measure.
The House passed the bill overwhelmingly in November with the support of 47 Democrats, requiring the directors of the FBI, Department of Homeland Security and national intelligence to confirm to Congress that each applicant admitted from Syria and Iraq poses no threat to the United States.
Although its been billed as a measure to “pause” the resettlement of Syrian and Iraqi refugees, the bill actually gives Obama permission to resettle as many refugees as he wants, so long as his administration is willing to certify they don’t pose a threat. House Speaker Paul Ryan blocked a popular amendment that would definitely pause the entire resettlement program. (RELATED: Five Of The Paris Attackers Could Have Flown To U.S. Without Restrictions)
Fifty-five senators supported the bill, but 60 votes were needed for its advance.
Obama has promised to veto the bill, saying the demands are “untenable,” would not strengthen the vetting process, and would only waste resources. An effort to lobby Democrats against the House bill actually backfired because the administration apparently convinced some members they could support the bill without putting his refugee plan in jeopardy.
Democratic Rep. Gerry Connolly said he decided to support the measure only after he concluded it wouldn’t stop President Barack Obama’s resettlement plan. “I walked in there generally a no — probably a no — and I left a decided yes,” Connolly told The Hill. “And I’m not alone.”
Scores of Republicans also objected to the bill in its current form, saying it ignores key problems. Republican Sen. Jeff sessions said the bill “fails to defend the interests of the American people” in a statement regarding the House measure. “It is based on a flawed premise, as there is simply no way to vet Syrian refugees,” he said.
It’s clearly not possible for the Obama administration to guarantee every refugee from Syria and Iraq is not a threat, and officials have testified to this fact under oath. Applicants are flagged only if they’re already in the U.S. system, but that system is limited by the lack of a ground presence in Syria and Iraq.
U.S. officials can hardly be expected to predict who may already be or will become radicalized. An administration official was blunt in a recent hearing: “We can’t predict the future.” (RELATED: FBI Director: It’s ‘Impossible’ To Vet Every Single Syrian Refugee)
The legislation also ignores the fact that refugees, immigrants and naturalized citizens from countries other than Syria and Iraq have been arrested in the U.S. on terror related charges. People originating from Cuba, Somalia, Ghana, Pakistan and other countries have been arrested in recent years for plotting to help terror groups including Islamic State. (RELATED: Many U.S. ‘Citizen Terrorists’ Are Also Legal Immigrants)
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