— -- Six days after terrorists killed 129 people in Paris, the U.S. House of Representatives is expected to pass a GOP bill today that would effectively block Syrian and Iraqi refugees from coming to the United States without the approval of top national security officials.
The bill, pushed by House Republican leaders, would require top national security officials to certify personally that individual refugees from Iraq and Syria are not security threats.
The measure, which is set to pass with bipartisan support, also calls for the FBI to conduct “thorough” investigations of each refugee. It does not outline specific changes to the current process, in which the FBI already plays a role.
The House Homeland Security Committee chairman, Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, who introduced the measure, said it would “properly vet” refugees from Syria and Iraq, and “certify that these individuals do not pose a threat to the security of the United States.”
Top House Democrats have come out against the proposal, but many rank-and-file members are set to support it, including a coalition of conservative Democrats.
The White House issued a veto threat Wednesday evening. In Asia, President Obama said Republican warnings about the current vetting system for refugees – a process that can take up to two years – “doesn’t jibe with reality."
“We already have in place the most vigorous vetting process that we have for anybody who is admitted,” he said in Manila, Philippines, where he is attending an economic summit.
There could be enough votes to override a veto.
House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said the bill balances security concerns after the terrorist attacks with the country’s immigrant tradition.
“We are a compassionate nation. We always have been, and we always will be,” he said Wednesday. “But we also must remember that our first priority is to protect the American people.”
Some Republicans have called for the United States to prioritize the resettlement of Syrian Christian refugees, prompting criticism from the White House. Ryan said the proposed legislation “will not have a religious test, only a security test.”
House Republican leaders have assembled a task force of seven committee chairmen to examine and put together legislation to address security concerns after the Paris attacks. French officials have said one of the Paris attackers entered Europe posing as a refugee.
Republicans are racing to take action before the Thanksgiving recess, but are not ruling out linking funding for the Syrian refugee program to the omnibus spending bill that must pass by Dece. 11, raising the odds of a government shutdown.