Blue Dog Dems to back GOP refugee bill

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Bucking President Obama and party leaders, Blue Dog Democrats will support GOP legislation to bolster security checks on Syrian and Iraqi refugees, the group announced Wednesday evening.

"In the wake of the horrific attacks in Paris, we must step back and reassess our existing procedures for admitting and monitoring refugees from Iraq and Syria," Rep. Brad Ashford (D-Neb.) said in a statement. 

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"I am proud of America's legacy as a welcoming nation to people fleeing violence in their home countries," he added, "but during the process of admitting refugees from countries associated with ISIS, we have to ensure that those coming to the U.S. do not pose a threat to the American people."

The conservative-leaning Blue Dogs are 15 members strong, though only 10 have announced their support the Republicans' bill — just enough to earn the group's official endorsement, a spokesman said Wednesday.

Their votes will not likely decide the fate of the proposal, which is expected to pass easily in the GOP-led House despite the defection of some conservatives who say it's not tough enough. 

But the Democratic opposition highlights the national security pressures facing some in the party in the wake of the Paris attacks. 

Behind House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), House Democrats are expected to vote overwhelmingly against the measure, arguing that it will effectively kill the program and leave thousands of refugees at risk.  

The White House has vowed to veto the bill if it reaches President Obama's desk.

"This legislation would introduce unnecessary and impractical requirements that would unacceptably hamper our efforts to assist some of the most vulnerable people in the world," the White House said.

Sponsored by Reps. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) and Richard Hudson (R-N.C.), the GOP bill would require the heads of the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and the National Intelligence Agency to certify that each Syrian and Iraqi refugee admitted to the U.S. poses no threat to the country.

On Wednesday evening, a group of Democratic committee heads released a letter to their fellow Democrats urging a no vote. The lawmakers said the measure "would effectively end resettlement of terrified families fleeing from Syria and Iraq, and severely handicap refugee settlement in the future." 

"The Republican bill does nothing to enhance our security and instead slams the door on desperate mothers and children fleeing ISIS’s unspeakable violence," the Democrats wrote. 

The group included Reps. John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.), Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) and Adam SchiffAdam SchiffOPM, not an outside contractor, discovered massive breach Clinton’s email troubles deepen House passes policy bill for intelligence agencies MORE (D-Calif.). 

The Blue Dogs have a different take, arguing that the bill simply installs additional layers of security to ensure the protection of Americans.

"We live in a world where threats to our homeland have become an unfortunate part of life," said Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.). "This commonsense bill does not shut down the asylum process, but makes it stronger and makes it safer for America to do the right thing by accepting legitimate refugees into our country."

The House vote is scheduled for Thursday.