White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson faced strong resistance from House Democrats at a closed door meeting Thursday morning on the U.S. refugee program.
The two top officials were on the Hill to explain how the refugee program works and urge them to vote no on a House Republican bill coming up for a vote Thursday afternoon. But their presentation did not “not going over well” and went “in the weeds,” according to a Democratic source in the room.
This source said the “message on this is too complicated.”
That sentiment raises the prospect that a large swath of House Democrats could join Republicans in supporting the House GOP legislation, which would suspend the program allowing Syrian and Iraqi refugees into the U.S. until key national security agencies certify they don’t pose a security risk. The Obama administration has threatened to veto the bill but it’s possible the measure could pass through the House with a veto-proof majority.
At the meeting with House Democrats, administration officials argued that a certification process included in the bill can’t be done. But several Democrats countered that the President does certifications all the time.
New York Democratic Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney told Johnson that the issue is “toxic” and the administration arguments are “insufficient.”
House Democratic leaders are not “whipping” this bill, meaning they are not pressuring members to back the Administration and oppose the bill.
House Minority Nancy Pelosi told members before the meeting to essentially vote their conscience on the bill, saying, “Nobody is asking you to do anything but listen.”