Casey to McConnell: Move on Anti-ISIS Measures Now

Casey to McConnell: Move on Anti-ISIS Measures Now

Washington, D.C. – Today U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), in a letter to U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), urged Congress to take commonsense steps before the end of the year to improve our homeland security and advance the fight against ISIS.

“The recent spate of attacks by the terrorist group ISIS against targets outside of Iraq and Syria is deeply concerning and demands a swift response from the U.S. Congress,” Senator Casey wrote. “Although some progress has been made to diminish the group’s territorial holdings inside Iraq and Syria, it is clear that they have the capability and intent to strike our partners in the region and in Europe, and they have declared their desire to attack the U.S. homeland. We have a responsibility to consider legislation and advance nominees that will contribute to this fight.”

The letter lays out five steps Congress can take to contribute to the fight against ISIS. These steps include:

  1. Immediately confirming several nominees for national security positions that have been stalled
  2. Prioritizing efforts to dismantle the financial networks that support ISIS’s activities
  3. Considering legislative proposals to meaningfully address potential homeland security vulnerabilities that terrorists could exploit including attacking the loophole on gun purchasing weapons and explosives
  4. Making reasonable modifications to the Visa Waiver Program
  5. Urging Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to schedule time early in the next session for a robust debate about the strategy against ISIS, as well as the Authorization for the Use of Military Force

The full text of the letter is below and official letter is attached.

Dear Senator McConnell:

The recent spate of attacks by the terrorist group ISIS against targets outside of Iraq and Syria is deeply concerning and demands a swift response from the U.S. Congress. Although some progress has been made to diminish the group’s territorial holdings inside Iraq and Syria, it is clear that they have the capability and intent to strike our partners in the region and in Europe, and they have declared their desire to attack the U.S. homeland.

Although members of Congress have differing views on what military and non-military options would be most effective in bringing about the defeat of ISIS, there are some commonsense steps the U.S. Congress can and should take before the end of the year to improve our homeland security and advance the fight against ISIS.

First, we should immediately confirm the several nominees for national security positions that have been stalled. For example, the nominee to become Under Secretary of the Treasury for International Financial Intelligence, Adam Szubin, has been waiting for Senate confirmation since April 20  – more than 220 days. As Under Secretary, Szubin would lead the team responsible for the investigation and sanction of ISIS terrorists, facilitators, and financiers. Cutting off ISIS’s financial network is an essential component of our strategy, and we should have a vote to confirm Szubin before the end of the year. Other key Department of Defense and Department of State nominees should also be considered.

Second, we should prioritize efforts to dismantle the financial networks that support ISIS’s activities.  I have pressed the Administration to use existing authorities to sanction individuals and entities that support ISIS and to target financial facilitators and infrastructure like oil tankers for airstrikes. The Congress should pass additional legislation, like my bipartisan Protect and Preserve International Cultural Property Act, which would restrict the import of antiquities smuggled out of Syria during the conflict.  This bill has already passed the House, and we should take it up immediately.  This is a targeted and meaningful way to help cut off one method by which ISIS finances its operations.

Third, the Congress should consider legislative proposals that would meaningfully address potential homeland security vulnerabilities that terrorists could exploit.  We must close the legal loophole that allows terrorists to purchase weapons and explosives. It defies logic that an individual suspect enough to be on the FBI terrorism watch list can legally purchase a lethal weapon or explosives, like those used to kill innocent civilians in Paris earlier this month. I am alarmed by reports that suspected terrorists were successful in exploiting this loophole more than 2,000 times in the past ten years. I urge you to hold a vote on legislation to address this problem before the Congress adjourns for the holidays.

Fourth, there is evidence that some of the terrorists who executed the Paris attacks were citizens of European countries and traveled to and from ISIS-held territory without detection. I am concerned that there may not be adequate protections under the Visa Waiver Program to ensure a potential terrorist cannot use his or her European passport to gain entry to the United States without proper screening. I acknowledge that the Visa Waiver Program is an important tool for encouraging tourism and commerce with our international partners, but I believe there are ways to strengthen our system to ensure it is not exploited. As legislation is developed to address this problem, I believe that the Congress should swiftly consider it.

Fifth, I urge you to schedule time early in the next session for a robust debate about the strategy against ISIS, as well as the Authorization for the Use of Military Force.  Whenever our military personnel are deployed, potentially in harm’s way, they deserve our full engagement and support. Refusing to debate this issue because the options are complex and difficult is an abdication of our most important duty as lawmakers and leaders: to put the security of this nation ahead of partisan politics. 

I am also pressing the Administration to engage with members of Congress on ways to strengthen our strategy against ISIS.  We have a responsibility to consider legislation and advance nominees that will contribute to this fight. I appreciate your consideration of my views. 

                                                                                Sincerely,

                                                                                Robert P. Casey, Jr.

                                                                                United States Senator

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