On Tuesday House Democrats passed a bill restricting President Trump’s executive power over immigration on a 233-183 vote. The act limits the president, State Department, and Department of Homeland Security from creating travel restrictions such as Trump’s earlier this year that are widely acknowledged to have dramatically reduced the U.S. spread of coronavirus.
Despite the inaccurate “Muslim ban” nickname from Democrats, President Trump’s original executive order in 2017 prevented travelers from seven terrorist hotbed countries from traveling to the United States for 90 days “to protect the American people from terrorist attacks by foreign nationals admitted to the United States.”
It has since been modified to list countries depending on threat levels, including banning travel from China during COVID-19. The Supreme Court previously upheld Trump’s travel restrictions order in 2018 in a 5-4 ruling, affirming that it is within the president’s constitutional authority to limit travel to the United States for security purposes.
House Republicans previously called on Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi in March to pull the bill, saying that it would hinder the administration’s ability to handle national security and the COVID-19 outbreak.
“The president ought to be able to keep potential terrorists from coming into our country, but now with this outbreak of coronavirus, the president also needs to have all the tools available to limit, people coming in from countries with a high propensity of coronavirus,” Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La) said.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy also criticized the act, claiming that it was just “wrong.”
“This will harm the ability for this country to continue to keep us safe. It is the wrong time, wrong place and wrong legislation to even be talking about,” he said.
The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.), however, kept inaccurately claiming the bill would “uphold the civil rights of Muslim Americans.” The travel restrictions applied to foreign citizens, not Americans, and regardless of religious affiliation.
“It is cruel and unjust to have this ban,” Chu told CNN. “This is the first bill passed out of the House that would uphold the civil rights of Muslim Americans.”
While some Democrats claim language in the bill would allow for restrictions based on risk, Republicans say it may hold larger implications for national security measures, including in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak.
“The president must have authority to act when our national security is at risk. When a situation demands we halt travel into our country, whether that be to protect us from a pandemic or other national security issue, the president must have the power to do so,” said Rep. Lance Gooden (R-Texas).
The “No Ban Act” is now on its way to the GOP-controlled Senate, where it is expected to die.