Protecting Americans & Defeating ISIS
On Sunday evening, President Obama gave an address to the nation to update the American people on his ISIS strategy in light of the tragic attack in San Bernardino, California, last week. My thoughts and prayers continue to be with the people of San Bernardino, especially the victims and their families.
I was extremely disappointed in the president’s address. He rolled out no change in strategy and called on Congress to revoke the 2nd Amendment rights of anyone on the no-fly list. Keep in mind people who are on the no-fly list have not necessarily been convicted of a crime. No one believes terrorists should be allowed to purchase firearms, but citizens of this country are entitled to certain rights, one of those being due process. Even the LA Times editorial board, which generally favors gun control, dismissed the president’s proposal as treading onto “dangerous ground,” noting citizens are never made aware of their inclusion on the list nor the reason why. To illustrate this, they shared an example of when former U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy was once added to the no-fly list by mistake. According to the editorial, it took Senator Kennedy’s office three weeks to clear his name.
While I am certainly open to looking at ways we can address violence around the country - whether it be through mental health care reform or providing economic opportunities to rehabilitate criminals and help them lift themselves out of poverty - I believe it’s unfair to put mass shootings at the hands of deranged individuals in the same category as terrorist attacks by radicals whose main mission is to destroy the West. Unfortunately, Tennesseans have experienced radical Islamic terrorism in our own backyard, which the president finally acknowledged on Sunday evening.
The president’s strategy to defeat ISIS continues to fall short of what is needed. While he called on Congress to pass his authorization for use of military force (AUMF), I’ve yet to see or hear a concrete plan from the president, and haven’t seen any change in strategy since he declared ISIS “contained” just before the Paris attacks. I cannot – and will not – support an AUMF without a clear plan that details what forces will be used, how it’s in our best strategic interest, how it will defeat ISIS and what success looks like.
One of my most important duties as a Congressman is to support policies to protect Americans. This is why, last month, I voted in support of H.R. 4038, the American Security Against Foreign Enemies (SAFE) Act. The SAFE Act pauses the admission of refugees from Iraq and Syria, and requires the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to ensure that refugee background checks are thorough enough to determine a refugee is not a threat to the United States. If the FBI cannot certify the background check, the refugee will not be admitted to the U.S.
This week, the House acted once again to protect Americans by passing H.R. 158, the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015. This legislation addresses the shortcomings of the Visa Waiver Program – which allows citizens of certain counties to more easily travel to the U.S. for up to 90 days - by requiring participating countries to provide counterterrorism information and other intelligence, identifying and allowing for the suspension of high-risk countries and denying Visa Waiver Program status for those who have traveled to terrorist hotspots since 2011. This action was recommended by the Homeland Security Committee’s Foreign Fighter Task Force and will help ensure ISIS fighters with Western passports who have traveled to countries like Iraq and Syria for training are not permitted to enter the U.S. through the Visa Waiver Program.
As the threat posed by ISIS continues to grow, you can rest assured I will keep pushing the president to present Congress with a smart, effective plan to defeat ISIS. I will also fight to fiercely protect the rights of American citizens. We cannot forget who our enemies are in this fight: radical Islamic terrorists. Unfortunately, until the president steps up with a clear plan to fight the enemy, the threat to our homeland will continue to grow.Feel free to contact my office if I can be of assistance to you or your family.