Some of the Democratic leader’s proposals echo Obama’s own during his Sunday night address on his ISIS strategy. The president, along with Senate Democrats, supports reform of the the visa waiver program by requiring participating countries use so-called “e-passports” featuring embedded, machine-readable chips with travelers’ biometric information. Like Obama, Senate Democrats want to change gun laws to preclude those on the no-fly list and others suspected of terrorist ties from being able to purchase firearms.
But in the wake of the shooting in San Bernardino, Calif., last week, Democrats tried and failed to pass the gun measure as part of the budget reconciliation bill to repeal Obamacare.
Reid warned Senate Democrats would raise the gun control language again.
“We’re not finished,” Reid said on Monday. “We’ll bring this vote to the floor as often as we can.”
One thing Obama mentioned was noticeably absent from Reid’s list of national security proposals: Any endorsement of the percolating effort to vote on a new AUMF against ISIS.
Some lawmakers have been pushing for a new AUMF in light of increased engagement against ISIS, arguing that the administration’s legal position isn’t valid. They say that the fight is covered under the 2001 AUMF drafted initially to allow the U.S. pursue al-Qaeda in Afghanistan.
Though the president challenged Congress to pass a new AUMF, the White House has not altered its legal defense of the country’s current engagement against ISIS.
“I don’t believe in AUMFs,” Reid said last month, endorsing the argument that Obama has the legal authority he needs to fight ISIS.
On Monday, Reid called for new sanctions against financial institutions that knowingly facilitate transactions with ISIS, mirroring an initiative similar to efforts underway in the House. Last week, House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) said lawmakers were working on legislation “to help crimp the financial fuel line to terrorism.”
Senate Democrats are also calling for a new strategy to protect against the threat of a dirty bomb by locking down high-risk radiological material in industrial sites and hospitals.
Reid also called for a new “stabilization” fund to help Jordan and Lebanon, two countries neighboring Syria that have, along with Turkey, accommodated the bulk of the over four million refugees fleeing Syria’s civil war. He did not say how much money Democrats would devote to that proposal, nor how much they would dedicate to new training grants to teach state and local law enforcement units how to respond to an active shooter attack.
Reid said Democrats also wanted to create a new ISIS “czar” position in the White House, stressing that one person should be fully equipped to lead the fight against ISIS, bringing together military strategy, aid to refugees, development assistance, and domestic law enforcement and terror surveillance. Currently, ISIS “czar”-like authority rests with Robert Malley, senior adviser to the president on ISIS-related matters, and Brett McGurk, special envoy to the counter-ISIS campaign.
“We did it with Ebola,” Reid said. “We certainly can do it with this scourge that’s facing this country, ISIS.”
Democrats are also calling for a new office at the Department of Homeland Security focused on stopping homegrown extremism and radicalization, and insisting that Congress confirm the nomination of Adam Szubin as Treasury under secretary for terrorism and financial crimes. They also want to invest in developing a strategy to counter ISIS propaganda.