Wicker: Senate Focuses on Fighting Terrorism After Orlando Tragedy

Lawmakers Consider Bill to Fund FBI, Urge House to Pass Airport Security Reforms

June 20, 2016

Fifteen years after Sept. 11, the senseless terrorist attacks in San Bernardino and Orlando serve as painful reminders of the potential for a radical ideology to inspire mass violence. We continue to mourn with those who lost loved ones during these acts of sickening cowardice.

There are no simple solutions. We can start, however, by recommitting ourselves to the safety and security of every American at home and abroad. The Senate is currently considering an appropriations bill to fund the departments of Commerce and Justice. This bill provides the resources needed for counterterrorism activities and actions to prevent future attacks.

Specifically, the bill would support funding for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which has the dual role of enforcing the law and investigating security threats to our nation. The FBI leads the Joint Terrorism Task Forces – a strategic counterterrorism partnership among federal agencies and local law enforcement in 104 cities across the country.

Stronger Leadership Needed Against ISIS

There is no substitute for steadfast vigilance against both coordinated terrorist attacks and radicalized lone wolves. Deaths from terrorism are on the rise around the world as groups like the Islamic State and Boko Haram launch campaigns of brutality, using technology to spread their messages of evil and recruit sympathizers.

I am disappointed that President Obama has not put forward a comprehensive strategy to defeat the Islamic State. The current approach is not working. CIA Director John Brennan told Congress on June 16, “Unfortunately, despite all our progress against ISIL on the battlefield and in the financial realm, our efforts have not reduced the group’s terrorism capability and global reach.”

During this time of global instability, we need leadership from our commander in chief. In addition, Congress can work to protect Americans by giving the FBI the resources it needs to foil terrorist plots. The Senate is expected to consider amendments that deal with suspected terrorists on a watch list and their access to firearms. The goal should be to give law enforcement additional tools to monitor, investigate, and detain terrorists while protecting the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens.

FAA Bill Would Help Keep Airline Passengers Safe

Another legislative priority important to counterterrorism efforts is the reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The bill, which passed the Senate with overwhelming bipartisan support two months ago, still awaits passage by the House of Representatives. Our nation’s airports need this funding before July 15, when the current authorization expires.

At stake in the FAA bill are key airport reforms to protect passengers, such as better vetting of airport employees, greater security for international flights arriving in the United States, and an expansion of the TSA PreCheck program to shorten security lines. Americans should be able to travel with the confidence that they will be kept safe. This requires having the proper screening in place to stop terrorists before they do us harm.

National Intelligence Director James Clapper has warned that homegrown terrorism will remain a serious threat in the United States. In the wake of Orlando’s tragedy, which took 49 innocent American lives, we should respond with measures of strength and resolve to keep such atrocities from happening again.