At a time when bipartisan agreement on anything is increasingly rare in Washington, a powerful Senate panel on Thursday gave strong bipartisan approval to an amendment expressing disapproval of any proposal, such as one recently floated by Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump, that non-citizen Muslims be denied entry to the United States on the basis of their religion.
The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 16-4 in favor of the language, which reads, “It is the sense of the Senate that the United States must not bar individuals from entering into the United States based on their religion, as such action would be contrary to the fundamental principles on which this Nation was founded.”
The amendment was introduced by the committee’s senior Democrat, Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy, who said, “Many on this committee have rightfully expressed their outrage about the call earlier this week to shut our borders to Muslims. Now we need to formally go on the record to reject this reprehensible position.”
His amendment received unanimous support from the other Democrats on the panel.
A large majority of Republicans on the panel, including Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, of Iowa, also voted in favor. Four Republicans voted against the amendment: Sen Jeff Sessions of Alabama; Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina; Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana; and Sen. Ted Cruz, of Texas.
Cruz, currently running second in the race for the GOP presidential nomination in some national polls, has said that he “disagrees” with Trump’s plan. However, he has been a vocal advocate of blocking refugees from the conflict in Syria and Iraq from being allowed to take shelter in the U.S.
Also on Wednesday, an attempt by Cruz to force a speedy vote on refugee-related legislation he had introduced earlier in the day was blocked by Democrats, including Leahy, who characterized it as un-American.
“I don't want to stand by quietly and see the victims of terrorism and torture be demonized just so people will have a talking point for the local evening news,” Leahy said on the Senate floor. “We are better than this. The bill that my colleague, the junior senator from Texas, introduced an hour ago would prevent virtually all nationals of Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen from refugee protection regardless of how they suffered at the hands of terrorists and despots. Women fleeing gang rapes, children fleeing horrors we cannot even imagine, they would be closed off.”
Cruz introduced his legislation shortly after giving a speech in which he said that the U.S. ought not to intervene in the war in Syria, which has killed hundreds of thousands and has displaced more than a million.