Senate Democrats propose new 'czar' to fight Islamic State

Senate Democrats unveiled plan to deter bank transactions, enhance airstrikes and a new 'czar' to tackle IS


Reuters December 10, 2015
A resident of Tabqa city touring the streets on a motorcycle waves an Islamist flag in celebration after Islamic State militants took over Tabqa air base, in nearby Raqqa city, Syria, August 24, 2014. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON, DC: Senate Democrats on Wednesday unveiled a plan to defeat Islamic State abroad and enhance security at home with intensified air strikes, sanctions to deter bank transactions and a new "czar" to take charge of the effort.

Their prescription includes banning domestic gun purchases by people who are known or suspected terrorists, which President Barack Obama has been calling for since last week's deadly attack in San Bernardino, California - and which Republicans have resisted.

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It also includes some bipartisan legislation already in the works to reform the visa waiver program to require participating countries to universally require machine-readable, electronic passports.

The Senate Democrats also called for improved Transportation Security Agency screening at airports and a new strategy for locking down radiological material at hospitals and industrial sites that could be made into a "dirty bomb."

The new anti-Islamic State "czar" would be "fully empowered and in charge of the United States' efforts to defeat" the organisation, according to the Democrats' statement.

"Our plan addresses the threat of an ISIS attack here at home by augmenting resources to communities so they are trained and prepared to respond in an active shooter incident, while imposing tough new sanctions to cut off ISIS’ access to money," Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid said in a statement. "There is no reason Republicans cannot join us to implement these logical reforms."

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The plan would create a new stabilisation fund for Jordan and Lebanon to help Syrian refugees remain closer to their homelands, as well as a new Department of Homeland Security office dedicated to stopping "homegrown extremism."

A spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, was not immediately available to comment on the proposals.

The appointment of a new anti-Islamic state czar would follow word in September that General John Allen, the US special envoy appointed by President Barack Obama to counter Islamic State, planned to step down.

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