Ignoring a veto threat from the president, the House today easily approved a bill calling for a halt to accepting Syrian refugees until more stringent safeguards are in place.
The vote on the American Security Against Foreign Enemies (SAFE) Act of 2015 was 289-137. Two Florida Democrats joined Republicans: Gwen Graham and Patrick Murphy. (All told, 47 Democrats voted for the legislation.) Graham and Murphy have long taken votes that protect them from criticism from the right, and Graham is facing a tough re-election while Murphy seeks the U.S. Senate. Murphy's rival Alan Grayson issued a statement blasting the vote as "cowering in fear of widows and orphans."
Graham: "As the granddaughter of a Christian who came to America after fleeing religious violence, I do believe we have a role in helping peace-seeking refugees — but in light of new threats, we must strengthen our vetting process. We must be able to identify those who wish to do us harm, while continuing to offer a safe haven to those in need of refuge from war and persecution."
Murphy: "I am deeply disappointed how divisive this debate has become. Homeland security should never be partisan and our number one priority is to always keep the American people safe. With new security considerations following the tragic and cowardly attacks in Paris last week, we must ensure that we have the strongest safeguards to certify refugees are not a threat to homeland security. This bill ensures that our entire intelligence community is on the same page without turning our backs on those fleeing violence and terror. We must put aside partisan differences to develop a comprehensive strategy that combats the threat ISIS poses to people who love freedom everywhere."
All Florida Republicans voted for the bill.
Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Lakeland: "I voted for the SAFE Act today because it is my job to protect our country and the American people from threats and terrorism, especially when our President fails to do so. This legislation is a step in the right direction toward thwarting dangerous individuals from entering our country with the intent to harm us while under the guise of seeking refuge. America has a proud tradition of welcoming refugees into our country, and we lead the world in humanitarian assistance. However, we also must put proper measures in place to ensure our nation's safety.
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston: "The brutal attacks in Paris are the latest impact of ISIS's horrific and morbid ideology perpetrated against innocent people worldwide. ISIS poses a serious threat to our nation and to American allies and interests worldwide. In times of danger and uncertainty, our top priority must be the safety and security of Americans and our homeland. H.R. 4038, however, is nothing more than a politically-driven and fear-mongering response to a serious threat. It will not ultimately strengthen our national security and in fact undermines the foundation upon which this nation was built. Refugees and asylum seekers are already subjected to rigorous and thorough security background checks- the most extensive of any category of people coming into the United States. The process already takes between 12 and 24 months and involves the Departments of Homeland Security, Defense and State as well as the FBI and the National Counterterrorism Center. Those seeking to come to this nation under those categories are fleeing the same senseless terror and violence that seeks to harm us. Of the more than 2,000 Syrian refugees admitted to the United States since 2001, not a single one has been arrested on domestic terrorism charges."
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Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Miami: "After last week's horrific terrorist attacks in Paris and Beirut, it is clear that our country must help those suffering at the hands of ISIS. The refugees currently fleeing the Middle East seek the same freedoms that we as Americans are blessed to enjoy. I want to ensure our country remains a place of refuge and hope for oppressed people from all over the world, while granting our law enforcement officials the tools they need to properly screen each refugee and keep Americans safe. The ultimate solution for this tragic refugee crisis is to defeat and destroy ISIS and clear the path for new leadership in Syria. On this, our country must lead."
Rep. Ander Crenshaw, R-Jacksonville: "America has a proud tradition of welcoming refugees into our country and leads the world in humanitarian assistance. In that process, we must have proper refugee screening and vetting procedures in place to protect national security. Our nation's safety will always be my number one priority. That's why I support a temporary suspension of refugee resettlement until a more robust refugee resettlement program is in place. The SAFE Act provides a path forward. Before admittance into the United States, the bill requires comprehensive background checks on all refugees from Syria or Iraq and certification that each does not pose a threat to the homeland."
Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Miramar: "What we're here about today is pure, unadulterated politics. And it's wrong. The fact that you do not like this administration is your prerogative. I have my differences with this administration. But when the deal comes down to us taking care of this nation, none of us should stand here and say that we're going to give up the values that this country is predicated on, and shut our borders to those who want nothing more than safety for their families. The next generation of Americans will study this moment as a divergence from the ideals on which this country was founded."