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Loebsack defends Syrian refugee vote


Dave Loebsack at the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner in Des Moines on Oct. 24. -- photo by Adam Burke
Dave Loebsack at the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner in Des Moines on Oct. 24. — photo by Adam Burke

At a political symposium this morning at the University of Iowa, U.S. Rep. Dave Loebsack defended his vote supporting extra security measures for Syrian and Iraqi refugees and acknowledged the sour reaction by some constituents on his Facebook page.

The flak he received surrounds his vote for the American Security Against Foreign Enemies Act of 2015 (SAFE), that would require an FBI screening (in addition to a Homeland Security screening) for any refugees from Syria or Iraqi. The bill passed the U.S. House on Nov. 19 with a vote of 289-137, and has since been introduced in the U.S. Senate.

“I’ve had some interesting experiences recently with social media,” he said.

“A lot of people have been talking about my vote on the Syrian refugees on Facebook and very little of it has been complimentary. That’s how it is with this job.”

He reminded the Iowa City crowd that 47 Democrats voted for SAFE.

Afterwards he said, “I’ve signed onto a letter … saying that there should be no appropriations taken away from the refugee program. That would be the wrong way to go.”

He hinted that refugee screening legislation might be tied to a tightening of the visa waiver program that some are saying would introduce “smart” passports and biometric chips in the wake of the Nov. 13 Paris attacks.

He also said that many of his critics were misinformed about his vote.

Last week, in an op-ed published by the Des Moines Register, his explanation read, in part, “A vote for this bill was not a vote to block Syrian refugees, or to stop or delay the admission process … this bill is a simple request that the administration do its duty to the American people by certifying that among those seeking asylum, no one slips through who aims to do us harm. That is the reason I voted to enhance what is already a robust process.”

A former political science professor at Cornell College, Loebsack talked about the three themes of the academic conference: campaign finance, redistricting and the role of the media.

Not mentioning them by name, he bemoaned the political influence of two wealthy brothers, (presumably the conservative billionaire Koch duo, Charles and David) and then talked about redistricting in Iowa and Florida (where a landmark case is literally reshaping the political landscape).

“Politicians are nothing if they’re not risk averse,” he said. “It’s not that politicians only think about reelections when they take votes or when they do what they do. But that’s certainly very important.”

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The event, titled, “Political Discourse: The Impact of Redistricting, Campaign Finance, and the Media,” is part of the University of Iowa’s “Forkenbrock Series on Public Policy.”

Loebsack later headed to Ft. Madison, part of his 24-county wide congressional district.


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