By Jon Queally / Common Dreams

The United States Capitol. (Naptownduo / Shutterstock)

Forty-seven House Democrats joined with a majority of Republicans to approve a bill that would effectively stop the ability for Syrian refugees attempting to flee their war-torn country to be resettled in the United States.

The passage of the bill, which was backed by newly-elected Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and passed 289-137, was immediately slammed by progressive lawmakers who opposed the measure and rights groups who said the bill represents a gross and reactionary response to recent events in Paris, France.

View the roll call here.

Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), who co-chair the Congressional Progressive Caucus, called the bill a direct assault on “a fundamental American value” which is to “provide a safe haven for our most vulnerable neighbors.”

Grijalva and Ellison said they were proud to oppose the bill which they characterized as a repetition of a past mistakes that have tarnished American history. “Syrian refugees are fleeing persecution and violence from the very same terrorists that attacked Paris last week,” they said. “We cannot allow fear-mongering to influence policy that could mean the difference between life and death for these desperate families.” We stand proudly against misguided attempts to repeat past mistakes that tarnish our nation’s history.

The bill, they said, “diverts resources from where they are really needed by creating an excessive review process that would add years to the resettlement process and prevent thousands of people from getting the protection they need. Our Syrian refugee vetting process is already the most comprehensive in the world, and these changes would stretch the federal government’s limited resources. Closing our doors to Syrian refugees fleeing violence and persecution isn’t just morally wrong; it threatens our national security by fueling the extremist narrative that the West is at war with Islam.”

Though many Democrats sided with President Obama, who has said he will veto the bill, the 47 Democrats who sided with their GOP colleagues exposed just how susceptible lawmakers remain when it comes to knee-jerk jingoism and the hysteria that follows attacks like the ones in Paris on Friday.

As Nick Cunningham, an independent journalist and writer, responded to the vote on Twitter: “Not much is bipartisan these days, but apparently bigotry is something both sides of the aisle can come together on.”

And the Huffington Post reports:

Obama has been heavily critical of efforts to limit refugee resettlement, although he and other administration officials said they are open to ideas to strengthen the screening process. He has said he remains committed to his previous plan to admit 10,000 Syrians in the 2016 fiscal year, as long as they go through the screening process.

He said the rhetoric coming from Republicans — and some Democrats — would only hurt the country’s security.

“I cannot think of a more potent recruitment tool for ISIL than some of the rhetoric that’s been coming out of here during the course of this debate,” Obama said Tuesday.

“Speaker Ryan and this un-American bill’s supporters falsely claim it will simply pause U.S. resettlement of refugees,” said Karin Johanson, director of the ACLU’s Washington legislative office. “In fact, it will bring resettlement of Syrian and Iraqi refugees to a grinding halt by adding layers of bureaucracy to an already rigorous process.”

What’s more, she continued, “it also discriminates against refugees based on their national origin, nationality, and religion. Supporters of this bill want us to turn our backs on refugees who are seeking safe harbor from the very terrorism we all abhor. This is not leadership. We thank the House members who rejected this reactionary impulse and this discriminatory legislation.”

When asked about the bill’s prospects in the U.S. Senate by a reporter, Democratic Minority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) responded: “Don’t worry, it won’t get passed.” Meanwhile, attempts from Republican presidential candidates Ted Cruz and Rand Paul to block or curtail benefits for Syrian refugees seeking to enter the U.S. failed in the Senate on Thursday.

Deirdre Fulton contributed reporting for this story.

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