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House Approves Bill to Halt Syria, Iraq Refugee Plan

  • Cindy Saine

The Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives voted Thursday to suspend President Barack Obama's plan to resettle 10,000 Iraqi and Syrian refugees in the United States in the next year, but he is promising to veto the measure if it passes the Senate.

Obama signaled that he anticipates his resettlement plan will go forward.

“My expectation is, after the initial spasm of rhetoric, that people will settle down, take a look at the facts, and we’ll be able to proceed,” Obama said while attending the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Manila.

WATCH: video of House Speaker, House Minority Leader sounding off

The House voted 289-137, with the majority Republicans and a sizable group of Obama's Democratic colleagues voting to impose stricter screening on Iraqis and Syrians entering the country. The fate of the legislation in the Senate is uncertain.

Some Republican lawmakers have expressed concern that terrorists from Syria and Iraq will enter the country along with refugees and carry out attacks in the United States, similar to the ones in Paris last Friday.

'Rigorous' vetting process

The president said the refugees undergo a “rigorous” vetting process before being allowed into the country and dismissed claims they pose a greater security threat.

“The idea that somehow they pose a more significant threat than all the tourists who pour into the United States every single day just doesn’t jive with reality,” Obama argued.

On Wednesday, new Republican House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan spoke on the House floor about the Paris attacks. “All of us were shaken by the events ... but the world community will rally together and terror will not prevail.”

Ryan said the attacks are a reminder that there is evil out there, and it cannot be ignored or contained. It must be defeated.

He said the American people are uneasy after the attacks and need reassurance that the United States is doing all it can to vet asylum-seekers from the violence in Iraq and Syria.

White House officials have said the House bill would add "unnecessary and impractical requirements" to the screening process for refugees.

While remaining the world's top haven for refugees, the United States has only taken in about 2,000 Syrian refugees during the past four years of civil war in that country.

VOA White House correspondent Mary Alice Salinas contributed to this report from Manila

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