House votes to curb Syrian refugees, snubs Obama

Associated Press

Washington — The House has rebuked President Barack Obama by ignoring his veto threat and approving a Republican bill erecting fresh barriers for Syrian and Iraqi refugees trying to enter the United States.

Thursday’s passage came on a 289-137 vote — exceeding the two-thirds majority that would be needed to override a veto. Michigan’s nine Republicans approved the legislation, while the five Democrats rejected it.

The roll call came after White House officials visited the Capitol and lobbied Democrats to oppose the legislation. Dozens of them ended up joining Republicans, anyway, and supporting the measure.

The curbs would in effect suspend the entry of Syrian and Iraqi refugees into the U.S. for months or years.

Republicans said tighter restrictions are needed following last week’s Paris terrorist attacks. Obama and most Democrats said the system was already safe and the U.S. shouldn’t abandon its tradition of accepting refugees.

On the House floor Thursday, Detroit Democratic Rep. John Conyers, ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, said the Republicans’ refugee bill represents “election-year pandering to the xenophobia that rears up from threats from abroad .”

While urging vigilance, Conyers called the legislation an “extreme overreaction” to the latest security concerns raised by the Paris attacks.

“Instead of slamming our doors to the world’s most vulnerable, we should be considering legislation to strengthen and expand refugee programs,” he said.

“The bill before us today is not a serious effort to legislate, and it will not make us safer. It is a knee-jerk reaction, as evidenced by the fact that this measure — introduced just two days ago — has not been the subject of a single hearing or of any meaningful review by our committee.”

Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-North Carolina, pushed back against comments by Obama that critics of refugee resettlement were scared of widows and orphans, who comprise the majority of Syrian refugees brought to the United States since 2011.

Gowdy, chairman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security, said he is worried about policy that creates more widows and orphans, stressing that national security officials don’t have the appropriate information to vet refugee applicants from failed nation-states.

“Given the consequences of reconciling the risk wrongly, how much risk is this administration willing to take?” he said. “When it comes to public safety, we have to be successful all of the time. Those who wish to do us harm only have to be successful once.”

Detroit News staff writer Melissa Nann Burke contributed.