Upstate Maloney’s egregious vote on refugees

Anyone who wonders whether Congressmember Sean Patrick Maloney regrets having given up his days and evenings as a Manhattan attorney in exchange for the life of a minority party House member sitting through long D.C. committee hearings and weekending in his Upstate district to attend pancake breakfasts and ribbon-cuttings should consider just what the openly gay Democrat is willing to do to keep his job.

Two weeks ago, the Republican House, in a wildly xenophobic reaction to the Paris tragedy, voted essentially to shut down the entry of Syrian and Iraqi refugees into the U.S. by imposing — on top of already zealous screening procedures — the requirement that the head of the F.B.I., the secretary of Homeland Security, and the director of National Intelligence personally certify that each refugee poses no threat to national security. Democrats who opposed the measure argued that the personal-certification requirement was a cumbersome, infeasible requirement that would effectively block the Obama administration’s plan to allow entry of 10,000 Syrian refugees fleeing the humanitarian catastrophe unfolding in their homeland.

Those voting for the measure ignored pleas to consider the plight of women, children and the elderly who are flooding into Turkey, and from there, on into Europe. The president rightly termed the G.O.P. action “hysteria.” This hysteria, of course, has in good measure been “trumped” up by G.O.P. presidential hopefuls, who have wildly inflated the number of refugees headed here — the Donald has used the figure 250,000, with no shame — and the prospective dangers they pose.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid has pledged to use the threat of a filibuster to forestall action on the measure. The surety that the refugee measure would remain a “one-house bill” may have comforted the almost four-dozen Democrats who deserted the president to vote with the G.O.P., nearly giving the bill a veto-proof margin. In other words, with Senate action unlikely, House Democrats may have been given leave by their party leaders to cast a “political” vote. There are issues, however, where the ethical considerations should outweigh any political calculus, and this is certainly one of them.

Maloney was one of the 47 Democratic defectors, and bad as his vote was, his explanation for it was even more egregious:

“Our nation has long stood as a beacon of freedom, but after the events of the last few weeks some leaders have given into fear and turned their backs on refugees. These actions are reprehensible, and present a false choice between our values and our security. It’s understandable that people are scared, and Americans have a right to know that the process we use to screen refugees will keep us safe. I have faith in our system, and I don’t believe these refugees — the overwhelming majority of whom are women, elderly and children — threaten our communities or national security. So instead of slowing the program or pausing it, the administration should agree to immediately certify refugees if they pass the current extensive screenings and we should all refocus on actual threats.”

Maloney’s assertion that the refugee program can continue despite the legislation’s new constraints is disingenuous, and his effort to distance himself from what he terms the “reprehensible” actions of his allies on this bill is, in itself, reprehensible. One reader of Maloney’s Facebook posting of his statement — skimming it, clearly — “liked” it, under the false impression that Maloney had stood up to the G.O.P.’s efforts to block refugees. That misimpression probably troubles the congressmember little.

Two years ago, Maloney was one of nine Democrats who voted with the Republicans when they shut down the government in their effort to scuttle Obamacare. Despite the fact that Maloney first won his House seat narrowly during the 2012 election, when the president swept New York State and outperformed him in his 18th congressional district, Maloney has repeatedly distanced himself from Obama, while routinely calling himself a Clinton Democrat.

Beyond that glibly convenient characterization, Maloney really needs to figure out exactly what kind of Democrat he is and what the heck he is doing in Washington. And it would be reassuring if Hillary Clinton could demonstrate that she is not a Maloney Democrat.

This editorial first appeared in Gay City News, a sister publication of The Villager

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