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House Democrat: Obama White House ‘Royally ‘F**ked Up’ On Syrian Refugee Bill


On Thursday, despite veto threats from the Obama White House, the House passed the American Security Against Foreign Enemies (SAFE) Act with an overwhelming bipartisan majority. How overwhelming? It was veto-proof, with 47 Democrats joining Republicans to increase the screening and approval process of Syrian refugees entering the country. Over 2,000 have been admitted so far.

The Obama administration announced they would accept 10,000 Syrian refugees, despite security concerns. Those glaring national security issues came front and center after the horrific ISIS-led terrorist attack in Paris last Friday. One of the suicide bombers had a Syrian passport,which was recovered by French authorities. The bomber had entered Europe through Greece posing as a refugee.

So, what’s so horrific about the SAFE Act (via

H.R. 4038 [SAFE ACT] would expand the screening process for those refugees attempting to enter the United States by requiring the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to conduct its own background checks in addition to the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS). Any refugee would be prohibited from entry until the FBI certifies that they pose no security threat. Refugees would only be admitted with the unanimous agreement of the FBI, DHS, and Director of National Intelligence.

If you couldn’t find anything controversial about this, you’re normal. And many Democrats viewed this as a reasonable piece of legislation. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough met with House Democrats before the vote, where their presentation on why they shouldn’t support the SAFE Act was pilloried as “too complicated,” or inarticulate at best.

One Democrat, who wished to remain anonymous, went into a caucus briefing opposed to the bill, but left supporting it–adding that the White House “royally f**ked” up their whole strategy in fighting this bill (via Huffington Post):

In several meetings, Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) presented fellow Democrats with polling data showing that lawmakers who didn’t support tighter restrictions would be in the sharp minority. As former head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Israel is often called on to give advice on electoral matters. And while he didn’t explicitly encourage members to vote for the SAFE Act, the implication was clear: you will be vulnerable if you don’t support the only piece of refugee-related legislation that has gotten a vote after the Paris attacks.[…]

Far more consequential, aides say, was the failure of the Obama administration to make the case that the SAFE Act was either excessive or unnecessary.

Israel said as much himself after leaving a Democratic caucus briefing on Thursday with White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough and Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson.

“I’ve seen better presentations in my time here,” Israel told reporters. “They may have strong arguments on their side, but they’re not expressing those strong arguments sufficiently.”

An aide in the meeting with Johnson and McDonough said the administration’s presentation was “too complicated” and was “not going over well.” Another aide said they didn’t answer basic questions presented by lawmakers, such as why it was not practical or doable to add another level of certification on top of the current vetting process.

One House Democrat, who requested


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