A picture of Senator Harry Reid
Harry R.
Democrat NV

About Sen. Harry
  • Fighting Isis

    by Senator Harry Reid

    Posted on 2015-12-07

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    REID. Mr. President, last night, President Obama spoke in stark terms about the threat terrorism poses to the United States. He detailed the extraordinary efforts our government is taking to protect Americans. He also outlined a strong plan for continuing to combat terrorism at home and abroad. President Obama is right to say the first thing Congress should do is close the loophole that lets the FBI terror suspects buy assault weapons such as those used in the San Bernardino shooting.



    Senate Democrats support President Obama's plan to fight ISIS and protect America. President Obama has made it clear that Democrats do not believe we should put thousands of troops on the ground in the middle of another civil war in the Middle East. But we do support the President's strategy of continuing to go after ISIS in the air with our coalition partners, targeting their leadership, oil infrastructure, and heavy weapons.

    We know that it must be the local forces on the ground that ultimately fight for and hold their ground because it is their land.

    Senate Democrats understand that the Syrian war will only be resolved diplomatically, with all parties supporting the removal of Assad. We also know that we can do more to address the threats from terrorists. That is why beginning today Senate Democrats will unveil a series of proposals to take the fight to ISIS while enhancing our protection of Americans at home.

    There are a few important steps we must take in order to combat ISIS's terrorism. The Democratic plan would create a new ISIS czar, one person who is fully empowered and unifies the Federal Government's efforts in fighting ISIS. We did it with Ebola. We certainly can do it with this scourge that is facing our country, ISIS. I am pleased that President Obama has taken a first step in that direction.

    To continue targeted airstrikes on ISIS strongholds and oil supplies and to increase support for anti-ISIS local fighters on the ground are part of the plan.

    We must also cut off ISIS money through new sanctions.

    ISIS runs its reign of terror in Iraq and Syria through extortion, oil sales, and theft. Senate Democrats' legislation imposes new sanctions--and they are tough--including a cutoff from the U.S. and international financial systems if people knowingly facilitate financial transactions with ISIS.

    One of the things that would help is that we have a person who has been waiting for hundreds of days to be confirmed. What is his job? He works in the Treasury Department with the State Department to stop financing of terrorism. The Republicans--for reasons totally not understood by anyone--are blocking voting on this person. The job is vacant.

    We also believe that we should improve intelligence training between the United States and our allies in the fight against ISIS. Some of that has started, of course.

    [[Page S8428]] We believe we must screen and support migrants in Europe and the Middle East. Europe is facing an unprecedented number of migrants landing on their shores, almost 1 million this year. Their screening systems have been overwhelmed by the large number of migrants. Our bill would respond to Europeans' request to provide them with technical assistance to screen migrants and improve their own border security and our security as well.

    In the Middle East, the Democrats' plan will help Jordan, a strong U.S. ally at the forefront of the migrant crisis. Four million people are displaced in the region, creating instability in Jordan, our ally, and also harming the neighboring countries. Democrats' legislation includes a new stabilization fund for Jordan and Lebanon, helping those fleeing the conflict in Syria stay in the region, closer to home.

    These are just a few of the components of our plan to degrade and destroy ISIS, but we are equally committed to thwarting terrorism here at home. The Democratic plan would close the terrorist's gun loophole.

    As of today, there is a legal loophole that prevents law enforcement from verifying that potential gun buyers are not FBI terror suspects. That means if a person has pledged allegiance to ISIS online and is barred from flying due to the threat they pose, that man or woman can still walk into any gunshop and purchase weapons and ammunition. They can do that today, right now. That is wrong.

    Last Thursday Democrats tried to pass legislation to give law enforcement the tools needed to prevent the sale of guns to suspected terrorists. Republicans blocked our commonsense measure. We are not finished. We will bring this vote to the floor as often as we can. That is the way it should be.

    We need to strengthen the Visa Waiver Program. It was amazing to see the Republicans running for President waffle and weasel out of why someone who is on a flight-risk status, someone who cannot fly, should be able to buy a gun. It was interesting to see on the Sunday shows the Republicans waffle and weasel through answers on this subject.

    We need to strengthen the Visa Waiver Program so ISIS fighters cannot access the program and travel to our country. This includes requiring visa waiver travelers to use machine-readable passports, requiring information sharing rules with visa waiver countries and requiring visa waiver countries to enter into agreements regarding the air marshal program and to comply with U.S. aviation and airport security standards.

    We must improve aviation security. We must work to secure our airports. We saw all the news when ISIS brought down a Russian plane with hundreds of passengers aboard.

    A recent report from the Homeland Security inspector general found that 73 workers with access to secure areas in airports had links to terrorism--stunning. Our legislation authorizes new vetting for aviation workers and new security measures for the most important areas of our airports.

    We must lock down radiological materials to stop a dirty bomb. With both ISIS and Al Qaeda saying they want to get their hands on weapons of mass destruction, it is disturbing that there are 2,300 sites around the United States with radiological material. Our legislation requires a new plan for locking down those materials at the places where they are held, such as universities and hospitals, so we can reduce the threat of a dirty bomb.

    Our legislation is concerned--and we are going to do everything we can--with preventing homegrown terrorists by creating an office within the Department of Homeland Security tasked with countering extremism.

    We must address encryption by directing the National Academy of Sciences, the intelligence community, and the private sector to work together to identify new encryption technology and how it is used to make sure that our national security needs and technology policies are not working at cross purposes.

    Finally, Senate Democrats are proposing legislation to provide law enforcement agencies with grant money to help prepare for active shooter situations. We know how critical first responders are to containing and ending active shooter attacks. So we should ensure they have all the tools necessary.

    This is the plan that we, Senate Democrats, are putting forward. It is comprehensive. It addresses international and domestic concerns. The consequences of inaction are too grave for us to waste time seeking political gain.

    The security of our Nation and the decimation of ISIS depend on the steps we take now. So I hope Republicans will join us to implement these logical reforms that place the security of Americans first and address the threat of ISIS around the world.

    Mr. President, I see no one on the floor wishing to speak.

    Would the Chair announce the program for the day.

    ____________________

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