Monday was the first day that Congress has been back in session since ISIS released the gruesome videos showing the beheading of two Americans, and some lawmakers came prepared with legislation addressing the terror group.
Senators from the home states of murdered journalists James Foley and Steve Sotloff introduced a bill today to authorize up to $10 million in rewards to catch their killers.
The legislation from Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), and Ted Cruz (R-Texas) would update the State Department’s Rewards for Justice Program to include the murders of the journalists. The program has paid out more than $125 million in return for actionable intelligence since 1984.
Sotloff was from Florida, while Foley was from New Hampshire.
“James Foley and Steven Sotloff nobly risked their lives in the pursuit of truth, and the United States will not stand idly by after two of its own were brutally murdered at the hands of fundamentally evil and freedom-hating extremists,” Rubio said in a statement. “This bill is a symbol of our commitment to their parents that America will not rest until justice is served, and let it serve as a clear message to ISIL that we will stop at nothing to ensure the deaths of these beloved journalists do not go unpunished.”
“The world lost two courageous and inspiring journalists, James Foley and Steven Sotloff, as a result of the cowardly acts of a barbaric terrorist group and their deaths must not go unanswered,” Shaheen said. “James and Steven contributed greatly to the world through their reporting, and we must vigorously pursue those responsible for their murders.”
The only legislation directed at ISIS filed before the five-week summer recess were bills from Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Juan Vargas (D-Calif.) urging the administration to protect religious minorities from ISIS’ rampage. Democratic leadership in the Senate did not allow a vote on Portman’s bipartisan resolution before recess.
Nelson also filed a bill today to give President Obama authority to broaden the air campaign against ISIS to Syria.
“This is a barbaric group that’s committed heinous acts of torture and murder, and we have to go after them now – not only in Iraq, but in Syria as well,” said the Senate Armed Services Committee member.
Nelson’s bill states that “the President is authorized to use appropriate force against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in order to prevent terrorist attacks on the people and interests of the United States and our allies.”
It explicitly “does not include authorization for the use of rotational ground forces” and expires three years from the date that the bill is enacted.
In the House today, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) introduced the Terrorist Denaturalization and Passport Revocation Act to strip members or associates of terrorist organizations of U.S. passports and citizenship.
“Those who have joined a foreign terrorist organization have taken up arms against the United States and our very way of life. By turning against their country, their passports should be revoked and if they’re naturalized citizens, they should lose their citizenship,” Bachmann said. “As elected officials, protecting our nation and keeping the American people safe is our highest duty.”
In the Senate, Cruz filed the Expatriate Terrorist Act to “amend the existing statute governing renunciation of United States citizenship to designate fighting for a hostile foreign government or foreign terrorist organization as an affirmative renunciation of citizenship.”
“On May 24, an ISIS member returned to Belgium, where he attacked innocent visitors at a Jewish museum, slaughtering four people. And it was reported today that he had been plotting an even larger attack on Paris on Bastille Day. In addition, on August 11 of this year, an accused ISIS sympathizer, Donald Ray Morgan, was arrested at JFK airport trying to reenter the United States. Mr. President, we know that this threat is real,” Cruz said in a floor speech.
“The desire to become a citizen of a terrorist organization that has expressed a desire to wage war on the American people, has demonstrated a brutal capacity to do so, murdering American civilians on the global stage and promising to bring that Jihad home to America,” Cruz added. “We should not be facilitating their efforts by allowing fighters fighting alongside ISIS to come back to America with American passports and walk freely in our cities to carry out unspeakable acts of terror.”
Rep. Matt Salmon (R-Ariz.) said Obama shouldn’t wait for Congress to revoke the passports of known ISIS members. Officials have estimated about 100 to 200 Americans are fighting for ISIS.
“As America faces a clear threat from ISIS fighters, I have called upon the president to act lawfully, under existing statutory and regulatory authority, to deprive U.S. citizens who have allied themselves with ISIS of the use of their passport. This is a common-sense, non-controversial solution already authorized by our laws,” Salmon said.
“This action would do nothing to change their status as American citizens or their protection under our laws,” he added. “What it would do is stop those who have proclaimed their intention to harm our nation by restricting them from traveling abroad or returning home under the protection of her flag. I encourage the president to take this simple action as soon as possible to help us prevent a possible attack on our shores.”