Loebsack joins GOP in refugee vote

Martin Falbisoner


Syrian refugee bill divides part of Iowa’s congressional delegation.
By Brent Griffiths |  [email protected]

Iowa’s lone Democrat in Congress defied a presidential veto threat and joined a contingent of his fellow liberal lawmakers in passing stricter requirements for Syrian refugees seeking to enter the U.S.

“The legislation that was voted on today does not stop that process, rather it simply asks our screening agencies to certify that those entering our country are not terrorists,” Rep. Dave Loebsack, D-Iowa, said in a prepared statement.

Even without Democratic support, the American Security Against Foreign Enemies would have easily passed the House. Only two Republicans, including Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, opposed the legislation, which passed the House by a 289-137 vote on Nov. 19.

Loebsack — whose district spans eastern Iowa, including Iowa City — said he voted with the Republican majority because it is the Obama administration’s job to certify “those entering our country will do us no harm.”

Attorney General Loretta Lynch told reporters after the bill’s passage that its requirements would effectively end Obama’s proposal to allow 10,000 Syrian refugees to come to the U.S. during this fiscal year.

“To ask me to have my FBI director or other members of the administration make personal guarantees would effectively grind the program to a halt and would essentially not provide the safety and security that I really think is the concern of everyone looking at this issue,” Lynch said.

Loebsack, a former Cornell College professor, is the state’s lone Democrat in Washington after Sen. Tom Harkin’s retirement, Rep. Bruce Braley’s unsuccessful bid to replace Harkin, and Republican Rod Blum winning Braley’s open House seat, all of which occurred in 2014.

Former University of Iowa political-science Professor David Redlawsk said there is evidence Loebsack’s district can be a challenge. Loebsack won re-election in Republican wave years of 2010 and 2014 by slightly more than 5 percentage points.

The bill would require the FBI director and director of National Intelligence to personally certify that each Syrian or Iraqi refugee applying to live in America is “not a threat to U.S. national security” in addition to approval from the secretary of Homeland Security, a Cabinet-level position.

Already before a refugee reaches U.S. soil, he or she is required to go through a vetting process that can take from one to two years. Those checks include security screenings, background checks, and biometric screenings, all of which are checked against federal databases for confirmation.

The topic of Syrian refugees erupted into a national debate after last week’s attacks in Paris that left at least 130 people dead in the French capital.  ISIS, which is based primarily in Syria and Iraq, has claimed responsibility for the attacks. According to numerous reports, there were no Syrians among the attackers in Paris.

On Monday, Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad joined more than 20 other mostly GOP governors by declaring Iowa would cease in accepting Syrian refugees.

The rest of Iowa’s congressional delegation was not in agreement on the vote.

    Reps. Rod Blum and David Young joined 242 Republicans supporting the bill, but King was one of only two GOPers who voted against the bill.

King told The Daily Iowan that the bill did not go far enough and unsuccessfully sought to amend the legislation to include international safe zones for refugees in their own homeland.

“I voted against the [act] because it fails to restore Congress’ Article 1 authority over admissions of migrants to the United States,” King said in a prepared statement. “How can we trust this Obama administration, who [sic] will not utter the words ‘radical Islamic jihad’ to accurately screen Syrian and Iraqi refugees as required in this bill?”

The bill now moves to the Senate, where Minority Leader Harry Reid has pledged to block its passage.

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