The dynamics of Florida's Democratic Senate primary is one of a milquetoast moderate vs a firebrand progressive, and the moderate in that equation, Rep. Patrick Murphy, certainly drove the point home by being one a small number of Democrats today to cross party lines and vote for a bill that would require tough vetting of Syrian and Iraqi refugees before they come to America.
The bill would essentially freeze the influx of any Syrian refugees into America until the FBI sets up a background check program. No refugees who spent time in Syria or Iraq since March 1, 2011 would be granted asylum in America until they passed the background check. Oddly, the bill also requires the heads of the FBI, Department of Homeland Security and National Intelligence to personally vouch that any refugees coming into the country would not be threats to America's safety.
It's a highly contentious issue especially after last week's terrorist attacks in Paris. President Barack Obama is personally against the bill, saying he couldn't think of a "more potent recruitment tool for ISIL then some of the rhetoric coming out of here during the course of this debate."
The Obama administration is touting a plan to resettle about 10,000 Syrian refugees in America over the next fiscal year.
The plan to freeze the program and establish a vetting system however passed the Republican controlled house 289-137 today. Murphy was just one of 47 Democrats to vote in favor of the Republican bill, and one of only two from Florida. Rep. Gwen Graham, was the other. All of Florida's Republican members of congress, one of whom who came to this country as a refugee herself, voted for the bill.
Murphy has never held office as a Republican, but was registered as one in 2008 when he donated to Mitt Romney's presidential campaign. He was elected to a Palm Beach-area House seat in 2012, and the Florida Democratic establishment, the same one that last threw their support behind Charlie Crist for governor, views him as a rising star. They've now lined up to support his senate candidacy.
Murphy's firebrand progressive opponent in the primary, Rep. Alan Grayson, wasted little time calling attention to the vote. In a press release, he accused Murphy of joining the "GOP cowering in fear of widows and orphans.”
"Patrick Murphy showed today that he is too overcome with fear to think straight," said Grayson's campaign manager Doug Dodson wrote in a statement. "Instead of actually fighting terrorism, the Republican bill that Murphy supports exaggerates the threat posed by homeless, stateless refugees whose only mistake is believing that when we say we are a nation that welcomes huddled masses, we actually mean it."
Progressives on Twitter aren't particularly happy with Murphy's vote, either.
@PatrickMurphyFL hey congratulations on that vote, you just lost mine. Might as well let David Jolly win. Way to be xenophobic.— Clifford Jenks (@CliffJenks) November 19, 2015
Right-wing, cowardly Florida New Dem, Patrick Murphy, demonstrated once again how he'll be voting if he gets into the Senate-- with the GOP— Howie Klein (@downwithtyranny) November 19, 2015
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Though not criticizing Murphy directly, many other Democratic members of Florida's House delegation blasted the bill.
"H.R. 4038, however, is nothing more than a politically-driven and fear-mongering response to a serious threat," said Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, chairwoman of the DNC in a release. "It will not ultimately strengthen our national security and in fact undermines the foundation upon which this nation was built. Refugees and asylum seekers are already subjected to rigorous and thorough security background checks- the most extensive of any category of people coming into the United States."
"When the deal comes down to us taking care of this nation, none of us should stand here and say that we’re going to give up the values that this country is predicated on, and shut our borders to those who want nothing more than safety for their families," said Rep. Alcee Hastings. "The next generation of Americans will study this moment as a divergence from the ideals on which this country was founded.”
The bill would still need to be taken up by the Senate before landing on President Obama's desk. The President would obviously veto it, but Murphy and other Dem's support would give the bill a veto-proof majority in the House.