Blumenthal, Murphy help block Syrian refugee bill

Washington – The U.S. Senate on Wednesday blocked a bill that has split the Connecticut delegation and that would have required additional scrutiny for Syrian and Iraqi refugees, slowing their entry into the United States.

The bill failed on a vote of 55-43,  short of the 60 needed to advance the measure.

Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy were among those “no” votes, as were all but two of their fellow Democrats.

“Our enemy is ISIL – not refugees,” Blumenthal said in a statement. “This bill would effectively block refugees seeking to escape torture and persecution from seeking safety in the United States, even after comprehensive screening.”

Blumenthal said steps should be taken to improve and strengthen screening of refugees from Iraq and Syria, “but barring them completely is inhumane and unworthy of America.”

Murphy, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said “this is a a scary time, and I understand why the threats we face today feel so close to home. “

“Unfortunately, the bill brought before the Senate today does literally nothing to make us safer, which is why I voted against it,” the senator said.

Murphy also said that instead of addressing genuine security concerns, the bill “was designed with one goal in mind: to bring the refugee process to an end.”

A similar bill was approved by the House last year. It was supported by Reps. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, and Jim Himes, D-4th District.

However, Reps. John Larson, D-1st District; Rosa DeLauro, D-3rd District; and Elizabeth Esty, D-5th District, voted against it.

Syrian refugees came into the spotlight after the Paris attacks because one of the assailants may have gained entry to Europe posing as a refugee.

GOP presidential hopefuls Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio backed the legislation.

Another Republican presidential candidate, Donald Trump, has advocated barring Muslims from entering the United States.

On Wednesday, Senate Democrats tried to reach a deal with Republicans aimed at testing their loyalty to Trump. The failed effort would set up a vote on an amendment establishing a religious test for immigrants.

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