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House approves bill to pause Syrian refugee plan

Obama, GOP clash on refugee resettlement plan 03:02

The House on Thursday passed legislation that would pause the Obama administration's plan to take in at least 10,000 Syrian refugees over the next year.

Lawmakers passed the bill 289-137 with 242 Republicans and 47 Democrats voting in favor. Two Republicans and 135 Democrats voted against the measure.

Proposed in the wake of the Paris terrorist attacks, the GOP-sponsored bill would require the Homeland Security secretary, FBI director, and director of national intelligence to certify the completion of background checks for all refugees from Iraq and Syria and certify that they they don't threaten U.S. national security.

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The bill, sponsored by House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul, R-Texas, and Rep. Richard Hudson, R-North Carolina, was crafted just this week following last Friday's attacks after authorities said one of the eight terrorists involved had originated in Syria.

Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, both said earlier this week that the plan should be halted until the administration strengthens the vetting and verification process for incoming refugees.

President Obama, however, is sticking by the plan and defended it in a series of tweets on Wednesday.

The White House issued a veto threat Thursday on the bill, arguing that the legislation would introduce "unnecessary and impractical requirements" to help vulnerable people and it would provide "no meaningful additional security for the American people."

"It baffles me," Ryan told reporters Thursday morning about the veto threat.

The vote on Thursday is considered a veto-proof majority, but it's unclear whether it would even make it to Mr. Obama's desk.

While some congressional Democrats have defended the president's plan, some have also been skeptical.

Ahead of the vote, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and White House chief of staff Denis McDonough tried to convince House Democrats at a closed-door meeting Thursday morning, but an aide in the room told CBS News that the briefing was not going over well with lawmakers.

Johnson and McDonough went deep in the weeds on the refugee process, the aide said, and they argued that certification under the GOP bill couldn't be done because it would be too complicated. Democrats pushed back at the officials, the aide added, pointing out that the president does certifications all the time.

Before they spoke to the Democratic caucus, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-California, told her colleagues to listen.

"Nobody is asking you to do anything but listen," Pelosi told her members, according to the aide in the room.

Democratic leaders were not whipping against the bill, but the whip team was surveying members' positions anyway.

On the floor just ahead of the vote, Pelosi said, "I have a problem with the bill that is on the floor today" and said a alternative proposal developed by Democrats would apply tough scrutiny to all refugees, not just Syrians and Iraqis.

Meanwhile, Assistant Secretary of State Anne Richard told a House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration earlier Thursday morning that there have been a handful of refugees out of three million that have turned out to be threats before.

It's unclear if or when the Senate will take up the bill, and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, told reporters it wouldn't pass.

Congress is scheduled to go on a week-long recess next week for Thanksgiving.

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