Syrian refugees in Jordan
Refugees from Syria at a camp in Jordan

The Unit­ed States House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives today dis­graced itself by vot­ing over­whelm­ing­ly to approve a Repub­li­can-backed bill intend­ed to effec­tive­ly block Amer­i­ca from tak­ing in more Syr­i­an refugees. The vote on the leg­is­la­tion was two hun­dred and eighty-nine to one hun­dred and thir­ty-sev­en, with forty-sev­en Democ­rats shame­ful­ly join­ing near­ly all the Repub­li­cans in vot­ing aye.

H.R. 4036, in the words of New York Times reporters Jen­nifer Stein­hauser and Michael Shear, “would require that the direc­tor of the F.B.I., the sec­re­tary of the Depart­ment of Home­land Secu­ri­ty and the direc­tor of nation­al intel­li­gence con­firm that each appli­cant from Syr­ia and Iraq pos­es no threat.”

The White House has made its unequiv­o­cal oppo­si­tion to the bill known, say­ing that Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma would veto it if it reached his desk. But it must first go through the Sen­ate, where its prospects are uncertain.

“Slam­ming the door in the face of refugees would betray our deep­est val­ues. That’s not who we are. And it’s not what we’re going to do,” Pres­i­dent Oba­ma tweet­ed ahead of the vote, adding, “Wel­com­ing the world’s vul­ner­a­ble who seek the safe­ty of Amer­i­ca is not new to us. We’ve safe­ly wel­comed 3 mil­lion refugees since 1975.”

With one excep­tion, the roll call from our region was split along par­ty lines:

Vot­ing Aye: Repub­li­cans Jaime Her­rera-Beut­ler, Cathy McMor­ris Rodgers, Dan New­house, Dave Reichert (WA), Greg Walden (OR), Don Young (AK), Ryan Zinke (MT), Raúl Labrador and Mike Simp­son (OR); Demo­c­rat Kurt Schrad­er (OR)

Vot­ing Nay: Democ­rats Suzan Del­Bene, Rick Larsen, Derek Kilmer, Jim McDer­mott, Adam Smith, Den­ny Heck (WA), Suzanne Bonam­i­ci and Earl Blu­me­nauer (OR)

Not Vot­ing: Peter DeFazio (OR)

Spe­cial jeers to Kurt Schrad­er of Ore­gon, who was the only Demo­c­rat from our region to turn his back on Syr­i­an refugees and vote for this awful legislation.

“Today’s vote to severe­ly restrict the reset­tle­ment of Syr­i­an refugees in Amer­i­ca is a fear-based, knee-jerk reac­tion that leaves fam­i­lies, women and chil­dren, the col­lat­er­al dam­age of the war rag­ing in Syr­ia, out in the cold,” said OneAm­er­i­ca Exec­u­tive Direc­tor Rich Stolz in a news release sent to NPI. “It is a betray­al of America’s most cher­ished val­ues and our char­ac­ter as a nation.”

“We are grate­ful for the moral lead­er­ship of Wash­ing­ton Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee, who led sev­er­al states in declar­ing a wel­come for those flee­ing the war in Syr­ia, and Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Adam Smith, Suzan Del­Bene, Rick Larsen, Jim McDer­mott, Den­nis Heck and Derek Kilmer for show­ing moral courage and vot­ing against puni­tive restric­tions on the set­tle­ment of refugees of the Syr­i­an War.”

“We urge Sen­a­tors Maria Cantwell and Pat­ty Mur­ray to fol­low suit. Amer­i­ca stands as a bea­con of hope for those seek­ing refuge, oppor­tu­ni­ty and a bet­ter life. We must remain true to our char­ac­ter and val­ues, and allow fam­i­lies and chil­dren flee­ing war-torn lands a place of respite. Our core val­ues as a nation demand no less.”

Sen­ate Demo­c­ra­t­ic Leader Har­ry Reid hint­ed he would be lead­ing an effort to put the bill on ice in the Sen­ate, telling reporters, “Don’t wor­ry, it won’t get passed.”

Here is the full list of Demo­c­ra­t­ic U.S. Rep­re­sen­ta­tives who vot­ed for H.R. 4036:

  • Pete Aguilar (CA-31)
  • Brad Ash­ford (NE-02)
  • Ami Bera (CA-07)
  • San­ford Bish­op (GA-02)
  • Julia Brown­ley (CA-26)
  • Cheri Bus­tos (IL-17)
  • John Car­ney (DE-AL)
  • Ger­ry Con­nol­ly (VA-11)
  • Jim Coop­er (TN-05)
  • Jim Cos­ta (CA-16)
  • Joe Court­ney (CT-02)
  • Hen­ry Cuel­lar (TX-28)
  • John Delaney (MD-06)
  • Lloyd Doggett (TX-35)
  • Tul­si Gab­bard (HI-02)
  • John Gara­men­di (CA-03)
  • Gwen Gra­ham (FL-02)
  • Gene Green (TX-29)
  • Jan­ice Hahn (CA-44)
  • Jim Himes (CT-04)
  • Steve Israel (NY-03)
  • Mar­cy Kap­tur (OH-09)
  • Bill Keat­ing (MA-09)
  • Ron Kind (WI-03)
  • Annie Kuster (NH-02)
  • Jim Langevin (RI-02)
  • Dan Lip­in­s­ki (IL-03)
  • Dave Loeb­sack (IA-02)
  • Stephen Lynch (MA-08)
  • Sean Mal­oney (NY-18)
  • Patrick Mur­phy (FL-18)
  • Rick Nolan (MN-08)
  • Don­ald Nor­cross (NJ-01)
  • Scott Peters (CA-52)
  • Collin Peter­son (MN-07)
  • Jared Polis (CO-02)
  • Kath­leen Rice (NY-04)
  • Raul Ruiz (CA-36)
  • Tim Ryan (OH-13)
  • Kurt Schrad­er (OR-05)
  • David Scott (GA-13)
  • Ter­ri Sewell (AL-07)
  • Kyrsten Sine­ma (AZ-09)
  • Louise Slaugh­ter (NY-25)
  • Marc Veasey (TX-33)
  • File­mon Vela (TX-34)
  • Tim Walz (MN-01)

It pains us to say that some of these Democ­rats are mem­bers of the Con­gres­sion­al Pro­gres­sive Cau­cus. It’s incred­i­bly dis­ap­point­ing to see names like Louise Slaugh­ter, Mar­cy Kap­tur, and Jared Polis on this list. What on Earth were they think­ing, help­ing Repub­li­cans pass this shame­ful bill with a near­ly veto-proof supermajority?

POSTSCRIPT: The Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion’s state­ment offi­cial­ly oppos­ing H.R. 4308 has just been pub­lished and can be read on the White House web­site.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

Adjacent posts