A Blue Dog Democrat who was one of 47 Dems to cross the aisle yesterday and back a GOP bill to strengthen screening for Syrian refugees said that he supported the legislation because it wasn’t “whack-a-doodle.”
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.
Two Republicans — Reps. Walt Jones (N.C.) and Steve King (Iowa) — voted “no”; they were objecting to the closed rule with no amendments.
Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.), one of the chairmen of the Blue Dog Coalition of fiscally conservative Dems, says he’s not concerned about blowback from his vote “because there’s been misrepresentation in the press” about the bill’s content and purpose.
“All it talks about is making sure that our intelligence and security forces, including the FBI, certify that people coming in through the refugee program, which every member of Congress wants to continue, are not a threat under the current processes to people of the United States,” Schrader told CNN.
“People in this country are afraid…they deserve to know that the United States government and their Congress is doing everything to make sure that the refugees that need to get out of these horrible places can do so safely and they do not pose a threat to America.”
The congressman called it “absolutely false” to assert that the bill is meant to make it impossible for any Syrian refugee to come into the country.
“Republican leadership could have put on a very strange, you know, whack-a-doodle type of bill that would have gone against Muslims, would have had all sorts of restrictions, stopping the Syrian refugee program all together,” Schrader said. “I give Speaker Ryan some credit for putting a responsible bill on the floor that just says, ‘Hey, let’s make sure we’re doing our due diligence and let’s get the FBI really involved.’ We’ve heard in the Paris attacks how the FBI has been integral to helping the French authorities figure out what’s going. We’re asking just the same thing for this country.”
Schrader added that it was important to have a bipartisan majority on the bill “to show people that we’re not a xenophobic country” but want to make sure immigration is done “safely.”
“And unfortunately, different groups and some in the media are conflating these two. And that’s not the case. I think what we need to make sure that we understand this. This is not a crazy Republican presidential contest with all these nut cases saying these extremist things,” he said. “This is responsible members of Congress having a serious debate about making sure this program is safe and in some cases making a statement that they support the refugee program. I get that.”