Today is Thursday, August 17, 2017

President Obama must put national security above political correctness

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President Obama has made it clear that, as he runs out the clock on his lame-duck Presidency, he is not slowing down. From his dangerously flawed Iran nuclear deal, to his efforts to "normalize" relations with the hostile Cuban regime, to his attempts to unilaterally disarm Americans of their 2nd Amendment rights - this is a President who intends on making the most of his final months to advance his liberal priorities.

Missing from the President's to-do list, however, is any substantive action to keep Americans safe in the age of ISIS and homegrown terrorism. Instead, this Administration has sacrificed national security on the altar of hyper-political correctness. From Paris, to Brussels, to San Bernardino, the world is seeing the consequences of what happens when America leaves a gaping leadership vacuum in the global war in terror.

The first Constitutional role of government is to "provide for the common defense." So maybe it's time our government actually started doing it. After all, if Tennesseans don't feel safe going about their day-to-day lives, not much else matters. I believe safeguarding our homeland security and keeping Americans from harm requires three key steps.

First, we have to keep terrorists off U.S. soil in the first place. That means halting our refugee resettlement program. We all have compassion for our neighbors overseas who are oppressed by radical Islamic regimes, but our compassion must be matched with wisdom. There is nothing compassionate about endangering American lives by allowing an influx of refugees across our borders without sufficient screening processes in place.

With my support, the House passed the SAFE Act of 2015; legislation requiring our nation's top intelligence officials - including the FBI Director, the Secretary of Homeland Security and the National Intelligence Director - to unanimously certify each refugee from Iraq and Syria before they are able to enter the United States. This is an important first step, but we can't end our efforts there.

That is why I joined more than 40 of my colleagues on a letter to the House Appropriations Committee asking them to temporarily suspend funding for the refugee resettlement program in this year's government funding bills. It is also why I voted against last December's omnibus bill that continued to throw taxpayer money at the refugee resettlement program without making needed reforms.

Second, the United States must revise its visa waiver system. Created under the Reagan Administration as a way to promote tourism, this program allows citizens of 38 allied countries to visit our country for up to 90 days without going through the sometimes arduous process of obtaining a visa.

Last December, I joined with a majority of my colleagues in the House to pass the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act - legislation requiring that, no matter where a person lives, if they have traveled to terrorist hotspots like Iran, Iraq or Syria in the last five years, they are ineligible for a waiver. The bill also lets the Department of Homeland Security act quickly and unilaterally to suspend another country's participation in this program if we determine that they have become a safe-haven for terrorists.

Finally, something the President and I agree on: the need for Congress to authorize increased attacks against ISIS by passing an authorization for use of military force, also called an "AUMF." But the details of what this measure should look like are where the President and I diverge.

In February of last year, the President submitted an unacceptably weak proposed AUMF to Congress. His plan would tie the hands of military commanders and, by banning the use of ground troops, it would signal to our enemies exactly what the United States won't do to ensure their defeat. Ask any veteran, and they'll tell you - that's not how you win a war.

That is why I am cosponsoring H.J. Res. 33, a resolution offered by Congressman Adam Kinzinger, an Air Force veteran, which offers a new, strengthened AUMF that would eliminate any and all restrictions on the actions our government can take to degrade and destroy ISIS.

In the time that remains, President Obama would be wise to remember that his responsibility as Commander-in-Chief is to "we the people" - not the Ayatollah in Iran, the Castros in Cuba or the Democratic National Committee in Washington, D.C. If the President wants to seal a political legacy to be remembered by, let me suggest he try this one: protecting the country he was sworn to serve.

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Guest Column
Diane Black, guest column, local government, opinion, President Obama, state government
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