The vote was 55-43, with "yes" votes falling short of the 60
needed to advance the Republican-backed measure in the 100-member
Senate. No Republicans voted against the bill, and only two
Democrats backed it.
Among other things, the bill would halt the admission of refugees
and require high-level U.S. officials to verify that each refugee
from Iraq and Syria posed no security risk before being allowed into
the United States.
Republicans said the tighter screening was essential to ensure the
safety of Americans and prevent attacks within the country by
Islamic State and other militant groups.
"This bipartisan bill would allow Washington to step back, take a
breath and ensure it has the correct policies and security
screenings in place," Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell
said in the Senate before the vote.
Democrats called the legislation an attack on people who are fleeing
war. They accused Republicans of holding the vote to allow their
2016 presidential candidates serving in the Senate to back
legislation touted as tough on security.
All three Senate Republican 2016 presidential hopefuls, Ted Cruz,
Rand Paul and Marco Rubio, backed the bill. Democratic presidential
candidate Bernie Sanders missed the vote.
Democrats also sought to play politics. They tried and failed to
reach a deal with Republicans to set up a vote on an amendment
establishing a religious test for would-be immigrants.
That vote was planned to see if Republicans would side against
presidential candidate Donald Trump, who has advocated barring
Muslims from entering the United States.
[to top of second column]
The Syria refugee bill passed the House by a large margin days after
the Nov. 13 Islamic State attacks in Paris. The bill was supported
by dozens of Democrats who defied Democratic President Barack
Obama's veto threat.
"We need to talk about efforts to defeat ISIS, not creating more
paperwork for cabinet secretaries," Harry Reid, the Senate
Democratic leader, told reporters before the vote.
It currently takes 18-24 months for Syrian refugees to be screened
before they can move to the United States.
Washington has offered refuge to far fewer of the millions fleeing
war in Syria and Iraq than many of its closest allies in Europe and
the Middle East. Obama announced last year that he would admit
(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Eric Beech, Cynthia
Osterman and Dan Grebler)
[© 2016 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2016 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.