Brushing aside new fears of terrorists exploiting the refugee program, Senate Democrats on Wednesday successfully defended President Obama’s plans to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees this year, saying the U.S. cannot turn its back on its obligation to help the needy.
Republicans had hoped to put the brakes on Mr. Obama’s plans by asking that the chiefs of Homeland Security, intelligence and the FBI sign off on each refugee — a way of making sure all the right security checks are done.
But Democrats mounted a filibuster to block the legislation, leaving Mr. Obama a free hand to run the refugee program as he sees fit.
“Women, children and families fleeing persecution are not the enemy,” said Minority Leader Harry Reid, the Nevada Democrat who led the opposition. “We should be focusing all our effort on defeating the real enemy.”
Republicans fell five votes shy of the 60 needed to overcome the filibuster, winning support from just two Democrats, Sens. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota.
That marked a stunning turnaround from late last year, when the same bill cleared the House with strong bipartisan support, drawing a two-thirds majority — enough to override a presidential veto.