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Connecticut representatives split as House passes bill limiting Syrian refugees

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WASHINGTON -- The House easily passed a bill Thursday that would suspend the program allowing Syrian and Iraqi refugees into the U.S. until key national security agencies certify they don't pose a security risk.

The vote was 289-137, with 47 Democrats joining 242 Republicans in favor of the bill, creating a majority that could override President Barack Obama's promised veto.

The high number of Democrats voting against the White House is a clear sign Obama is increasingly isolated in his position on refugees in light of the ISIS terrorist attacks on Paris.

House Democratic leaders say they did not "whip" the bill or pressure members to back the administration. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi told members before the meeting to essentially vote their conscience.

Two of Connecticut's all-Democratic, five-member House delegation are among 47 Democrats who helped pass Republican legislation establishing new rules for Syrian and Iraqi refugees trying to enter the country.

Reps. Joe Courtney and Jim Himes voted Thursday in favor of the bill, while Elizabeth Esty, John Larson and Rosa DeLauro all voted against the bill.

During his trip abroad this week, Obama has offered a forceful defense of the program and derided Republican opponents as being scared of "widows and orphans."

"We are not well served when, in response to a terrorist attack, we descend into fear and panic," Obama said in the Philippines on Wednesday.

FBI Director James Comey has expressed deep concerns about the bill, two U.S. officials tell CNN. Comey has told administration and congressional officials that the legislation would make it impossible to allow any refugees into the U.S., and could even affect the movements of travelers from about three dozen countries that are allowed easier travel to the U.S. under the visa waiver program, the officials say.

There are always risks in allowing any foreigners into the U.S., Comey told the officials, adding that the FBI believes it has an effective process with intelligence and other agencies to conduct vetting of refugees.

The bill would require the FBI to conduct background checks on anyone from Syria or Iraq hoping to enter the U.S.

Click here for our continuing coverage of the Paris attacks.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid said on Thursday that when the Senate takes up the bill Democrats will attempt to block it.

Reid's language suggested Democrats will use the power of their 46 seats to block the House bill from getting the 60 votes it would need to clear procedural hurdles in the Senate.

Senate Democrats told reporters they support two measures that would respond to the Paris attacks. One would prevent people who have been to Syria or Iraq in the last five years from entering the United States through the visa waiver program. The second would prevent people on the terrorism watch list from buying guns or explosives, something currently allowed, the Democrats said.

Additional reporting from the Associated Press.