Thursday, November 19, 2015

Senate Democrats focus on actual potential threats to national security after Paris attacks

Senate Democrats are planning to introduce legislative proposals this week that would actually address "terror gaps" in our national security: A visa waiver program, and a loophole that actually allows suspected terrorists to get guns.

"There's a question raised: if you came to the United States as a foreign national on a visa waiver into our country, we believe the law allows you to purchase a firearm in the United States," Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said Wednesday night. "These are legitimate questions about safety that we all want to address. I wish the other party didn't spend all of their time talking about refugees."

Several other Democratic lawmakers pointed out Wednesday that the visa waiver program—which allows foreigners from nearly 40 countries to travel here without obtaining a visa as long as they stay under 90 days—needs to be part of the discussion.

Several Republicans leaving a closed-door classified briefing with top administration officials on Wednesday night also indicated that they were also worried about potential security gaps with the visa waiver program and would seek changes. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) listed the waiver program, along with student and tourist visas, as areas of "much more concern, frankly, than refugees."

Sen. Dianne Feinstein is introducing a bill along with Flake to restrict that visa waiver program, which allows citizens and foreign nationals from mostly European countries—like France and Beligium—to come to the U.S. for 90 days without visas. Their legislation would bar visa-less entry to people from those countries if they had been to Iraq or Syria in the past five years. Flake is joined by at least one other Senate Republican in not being totally insane about refugees. Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker said, following the briefing, that "the visa waiver program potentially is the place where there's greater gaps, possibly, than the refugee program itself."

Where Republicans are not working with Democrats, not at all shockingly, is on the gun part. The part where people on the FBI terrorist watch list can buy guns. According to the General Accounting Office, between 2004 and 2014, "suspected terrorists tried to purchase guns through the loophole at least 2,233 times, and were able to do so in 2,043 of those cases." That's comforting, huh? Thus far, Feinstein has no Republicans wanting in on that proposal.

But it is encouraging that there's some sanity among Senate Republicans. It looks like they might actually be willing to be a check on House Republicans and their own grandstanding members, who seem dead set on forcing a government shutdown over refugees.

No comments: