While opposing a House bill today intended to stiffen screening of potential Syrian refugees, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) vowed that she’s a “lioness” when it comes to national security.
The House passed 289-137 the American Security Against Foreign Enemies (SAFE) Act of 2015, which says that no refugee from Iraq or Syria will be admitted into the U.S. unless the FBI director “certifies the background investigation of each refugee” and the secretary of Homeland Security, along with the FBI director and the Director of National Intelligence, “certifies to Congress that each refugee is not a security threat to the United States.” The DHS inspector general would also be required to independently assess the refugee approvals.
Forty-seven Democrats crossed the aisle to vote for the bill. Two Republicans — Reps. Walt Jones (N.C.) and Steve King (Iowa) — voted “no”; they were objecting to the closed rule with no amendments.
Pelosi lamented that Democrats didn’t get a vote on a “better idea” amendment – a “more discreet” option that “validates what is in the law now, the 18 months to two-year process that refugees have to go through in order to hopefully pass and admitted to our country.”
“We had a better option. We had hoped to work in a bipartisan way with our new speaker, but nonetheless, they went down this path,” she told reporters at her weekly press conference.
Pelosi argued that the Republican bill “sends a message to the world that is — does not improve our safety.”
“A piece of legislation is more than to wits, to woos, and the various provisions. It’s a message to the world about our country, and we have a responsibility to keep the American people safe. It’s the oath of office we take. Count me as a lioness. Anybody comes near my cubs, you’re dead,” she said.
“…This all went so fast. This is serious. This is our national security. The oath we take. That we should have this rushed, and ignoring some of the concerns that we’ve put forth, which made the bill stronger and made our country more secure — I think it’s a missed opportunity. It sends the wrong message. It doesn’t make us safer, and it does not have my support.”
Pelosi said legislation that isn’t a “values-based bill” gives “fertile, terrorist ground to those who recruit terrorists.”
“Terrorists’ goal is to instill terror, instill fear. We cannot let them have that victory. And so, why don’t we do something that makes us stronger, protects the American people more securely instead of fanning that flame?” she said.
The Dem leader added that she’s “really proud of the administration” for pointing out review of refugees at the cabinet level would be burdensome.
“What they were presenting to the members was reality. You can not have thousands of applications reviewed by the top law enforcement people in our country. It just doesn’t — it is an obstacle to the resettlement program,” Pelsi said.
On the 47 crossovers to vote for the SAFE Act: “We’re the Democratic Party. We’re like a family. We have our give and take all the time and some members just were sent to vote for this bill and so I don’t know if there would have been any answer that would have satisfied their concerns.”