House Passes Syrian Refugee Bill With Veto-Proof Majority

Legislation would put in place comprehensive background checks

Syria
A Jordanian soldier carries Syrian refugee children in the Roqban reception area, near the northeastern Jordanian border with Syria, and Iraq, near the town of Ruwaished / AP

The House of Representatives on Thursday passed a bill that would block Syrian and Iraqi refugees from entering the U.S. unless they pass comprehensive background checks.

The House passed the legislation in a 289-137 vote, indicating that the chamber achieved enough support to thwart a veto from President Obama, Bloomberg reported.

The bill gained nearly unanimous support from Republicans, and 47 Democratic lawmakers also voted in favor of it. Before the chamber voted Thursday, the Obama administration sent chief of staff Denis McDonough and Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson to convince Democrats not to vote for the legislation.

The bill, called the American Security Against Foreign Enemies Act, was introduced by Homeland Security Committee chairman Michael McCaul (R., Texas) Tuesday in order to "toughen security measures in order to keep terrorists from infiltrating America disguised as refugees," the lawmaker said. It was co-sponsored by Rep. Richard Hudson (R., N.C.).

The bill would require FBI director James Comey, Secretary of Homeland Security Johnson, and director of National Intelligence James Clapper to certify to congressional lawmakers than each refugee from either Iraq or Syria does not pose a security threat to the United States.

Lawmakers have raised concerns about the Obama administration’s plan to accept Syrian refugees into the country following the deadly terror attacks in Paris Friday that were perpetrated by the Islamic State, a terror group that controls large swaths of territory in Iraq and Syria. French officials concluded earlier this week that one of the suicide bombers in the Paris attacks used a fake Syrian passport to enter Europe posing as a refugee.

Obama has insisted that he will move forward with his plan to accept at least 10,000 refugees fleeing the civil war in Syria into the U.S. this fiscal year despite the terror threats. He has criticized Republicans for arguing that the refugee resettlement program poses national security concerns, threatening to veto the House legislation.