US Senate Democrats block bill on tougher refugee screening

Democrats in US Senate block Republican backed bill asking for tougher screening procedures of Syrian and Iraqi refugees

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) speaks at a Democratic fundraising dinner featuring all three Democratic presidential candidates in Las Vegas, Nevada, January 6, 2016

Democrats in the US Senate blocked a bill on Wednesday that would make screening procedures of Syrian and Iraqi refugees stricter.

The bill would require director of FBI, director of national intelligence and secretary of the Department of Homeland Security to confirm that each refugee poses no threat to national security.

Despite strong backing from Republicans, all of which including three presidential candidates voted in favour of the bill, the vote was 55-43, falling short of a three-fifths majority to go forward.

Following the Paris attacks in November last year, Republicans asked for the halting of admission of Syrian refugees into the US claiming they could be infiltrated with DAESH terrorists and they asked for stricter screening procedures.

The screening process for Syrian and Iraqi refugees takes from 18 to 24 months.

President Barack Obama, who announced plans to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees by the end of 2016, has already pledged to veto the bill if it were to come to his desk.

The bill passed through the House of Representatives in November with an overwhelming veto-proof 289-137 majority while almost 50 Democrats sided with the Republicans.

In the Senate, vote was strictly along the party lines as the Democrats claimed the bill was used as an attempt by the Republicans to seem tough on security as it is an election year and three Republican senators Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and Rand Paul are running for president.

Democrats called the legislation an attack on people who are fleeing war.

Senate minority leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said the bill “scapegoats refugees who are fleeing war and torture instead of creating real solutions to keep Americans safe.”

Reid described the bill as a “step in the absolute wrong direction, the direction of Donald Trump.”

Reid proposed to add an amendment to the bill in reference to Trump’s proposal to ban Muslims from the US, to force Republicans to either vote against their party’s presidential front-runner or to vote for it despite strong domestic and international criticism.

When Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) refused to allow discussion of specific amendments, Democrats voted against the consideration of the bill in a Senate debate and blocked it.

TRTWorld and agencies