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COVER: U.S. Rep. Lloyd Dogged disembarks from Air Force One during President Obama’s visit to Austin in May 2013. FILE PHOTO by MARJORIE COTERA/THE TEXAS TRIBUNE


WASHINGTON — Texas Republicans — and five Texas Democrats — shrugged off a presidential veto threat and overwhelmingly passed a bill Thursday that would block Syrian and Iraqi refugees from entering the U.S. until they go through a more intensive screening process.

The American Security Against Foreign Enemies Act, which passed by a 289-137 vote, was approved amid increased anxiety after Friday’s terrorist attacks in Paris. The White House lobbied hard against the bill, arguing that the current screening process was sufficiently secure.

But those efforts fell on deaf ears among the 47 Democrats who sided with the bill’s sponsor, U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, an Austin Republican and the House Homeland Security Committee chairman.

Those Democrats included five Texans: U.S. Reps. Henry Cuellar of Laredo, Lloyd Doggett of Austin, Gene Green of Houston, Marc Veasey of Fort Worth and Filemon Vela of Brownsville.

Thursday’s vote indicated that the House could override a presidential veto. Even so, House Democratic leaders — who sided with President Obama — insisted they could sustain a veto.

In a statement, Doggett said he voted for the legislation despite having some strong issues with the proposal.

“Instead of working together to make our families safer, this partisan four-page bill divides,” he said. “Fortunately, it does not halt the refugee resettlement program — it simply requires bureaucrats to file more reports and sign more papers.”

“I voted for it asking the Administration to certify that each person admitted through the thorough, existing process actually poses no security risk,” he added. “Republicans should reverse course and join us to address genuine challenges, instead of blameless victims fleeing violence in Syria.”

But other House Democrats beyond the delegation publicly railed on White House officials, saying they made a subpar case to the caucus.

The legislation is expected to face more difficulty in the Senate.

Two House Republicans, U.S. Reps. Brian Babin of Woodville and Lamar Smith of San Antonio, advocated on Wednesday for a temporary freeze in allowing any refugees into the country.

ABBY LIVINGSTON reports for The Texas Tribune where this story was originally published. It is made available here through a news partnership between the Texas Tribune and the San Marcos Mercury.

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