Paul Ryan

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) with Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill. (Win McNamee / Getty Images)

Lisa Mascaro
November 19, 2015

Tapping into heightened security fears after the Paris terrorist attacks, House Republicans — joined by many Democrats — rebuffed President Obama on Thursday and overwhelmingly approved legislation that would in effect halt the resettlement of refugees from Syria and Iraq to the U.S.

Faced with a White House veto, Republican leaders in Congress are threatening to include the restrictions in a must-pass spending bill to keep the federal government running past Dec. 11, raising the specter of another government shutdown.

The House bill would require leaders of the nation’s security apparatus — the director of national intelligence and the heads of the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI — to certify that refugees who are admitted pose no security threat.

The White House, which has proposed admitting at least 10,000 refugees to the U.S. this fiscal year from war-torn Syria, said the House bill creates “unnecessary and impractical requirements,” noting the current screening process is rigorous and takes up to 24 months. Critics say the legislation would essentially shut down the program. Prospects for passing the measure in the Senate remain uncertain.

The House approved the measure 289 to 137, with several dozen Democrats joining Republicans, crossing the threshold needed to overcome a presidential veto. But House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) vowed that a veto would be sustained.

The issue has lighted up the presidential campaign trail, with Republicans divided and Democrats siding with the White House.

“Turning away orphans, applying a religious test, discriminating against Muslims … that’s just not who we are,” said Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential front-runner.

Republicans, who say the current vetting process cannot guarantee terrorist sympathizers won’t slip into the U.S. undetected, may decide to test Obama’s resolve in the weeks ahead. The political battle is taking shape as a slight majority of Americans in two new polls said they wanted to restrict Syrians coming to the U.S.

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