Republicans, Democrats Press For Swift Action Against ISIS

Tuesday, 02 Sep 2014 10:42 PM

By Cathy Burke

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Republican lawmakers sounded a clarion call for quick, decisive action against Islamic State (ISIS) militants after the bloodthirsty group claimed to have beheaded a second American. 

"If this is not a wake-up call, what is?" Texas Republican Rep. Mike McCaul, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, asked CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on "The Situation Room" Tuesday.

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McCaul said he had watched the horrific video of 31-year-old Steven Sotloff’s execution. Politico posted a clip of the CNN interview.

Story continues below video.



"It’s a very chilling, disturbing video, very similar to the execution of James Foley as well," McCaul said. "The executioner appears to be the same individual who we saw on the Foley video. Left handed, British accent. But just very, a chilling reminder about how savage ISIS is and how intent they are on killing Americans."

"It’s the fact that we have Americans and those with travel documents that can come back to the United States and perpetrate an act of terrorism," McCaul added, noting special precautions should be taken in advance of the 13th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

"They take anniversaries very seriously in terms of when they choose to attack in the United States."

McCaul's voice was one among several Republicans demanding the White House stop the barbaric violence.

"Kill 'em," Arizona Republican John McCain told Fox News Channel's Greta Van Susteren. "They've got to be destroyed, and you've got to have a goal ... and we have to have a strategy to fit that goal and policies that will implement it. We have none of the above."

In a phone call from Israel, where he was on a congressional mission, Republican House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Ed Royce said he was calling Secretary of State John Kerry to testify as soon as Congress returns from its recess.

"Everyone agrees that the administration needs a strategy, that the president has to explain to the American people and explain to Congress how we are going to meet this threat," he said, adding he expects Kerry to present a plan for "rolling back ISIS."

President Barack Obama has so far used his authority to authorize airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq without congressional consent, but he'll have to seek congressional approval if the actions extend beyond 60 days.

Several former administration and Pentagon officials insisted Monday that Obama wasn't backing down from a fight. Instead, he was being deliberative and focused on the end game against ISIS.

The president has always been “deliberative about these sorts of decisions,” one former senior administration official told The Hill. Another insisted that Obama would “take the time he needs to make a strong and appropriate decision.”

“But I’m sure this will further his resolve to deliver the most effective response to ISIS,” the official told The Hill.

But deliberations in the face of what everyone agrees is unfettered barbarity isn't sitting well with members of Obama's own party.

“I think I’ve learned one thing about this president, and that is he’s very cautious. Maybe in this instance, too cautious,” Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” The quote was widely picked up and taken as a severe blow coming from a usually strong Obama backer.

The president will need Feinstein's support, especially if he goes to Congress to expand the attacks against ISIS.

"We anticipate there would be a vote for authorization of the use of force" before the 60-day period expires, Royce said.

But South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham slammed Obama for admitting to having no strategy for dealing with ISIS in Syria; the president last week said he'd asked defense officials to prepare "a range of options."

"Mr. President, if you can’t come up with a strategy, at least tell us what the goal is," Graham said, The Hill reported. 

He also said tough words are not nearly enough for ISIS, which is also known as ISIL.

"[C]ondemnation is not enough to deal with this scourge. It is time we act decisively against ISIL wherever it resides," he said.

"Our hearts and prayers go out to the family of Mr. Sotloff and all those who have suffered under" ISIS’s "barbaric behavior," Graham said, adding Obama should extend the current airstrikes of ISIS.

"Whenever American air power has been employed, in coordination with reliable partners on the ground, ISIL has been devastated," the Senate Armed Services Committee member said, adding the tactic "should be aggressively pursued both in Syria and Iraq."

Another GOP lawmaker, Kansas Republican Rep. Mike Pompeo, a member of the House intelligence committee, said the situation is urgent.

"We cannot afford to allow these terrorists to continue their march," he said, Fox News reported.

Rep. Paul Ryan blamed the administration for contributing to the circumstances that led to the swift ascent of ISIS.

Ryan had been taking questions from a panel of reporters during a Milwaukee luncheon when he was asked to respond to a news report that journalist Sotloff had been beheaded. The congressman asked the several hundred people in the audience to observe a moment of silence, and then suggested that ISIS' rise to power coincided with a series of Obama missteps.

"I do think a good deal of this rise stem(s) from bad decisions made by the administration in foreign policy with respect to Syria and Iraq," Ryan said, adding, "Those decisions created a vacuum which is now being filled by ISIS," a reference to the Islamic State.

Rep. Peter King, meanwhile, agreed with McCain that the group must be wiped out.

"This is absolutely disgraceful. It's horrific. It shows how barbaric ISIS is," the New York Republican said Tuesday on CNN's "The Lead with Jake Tapper." The United States and its allies must make every effort "to crush them and destroy them," King said.

The demand for White House action was bipartisan.

"The beheading of poor Mr. Sotloff really just brings back that we are dealing with a dangerous adversary," said Rep. Eliot Engel, ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, who was traveling with Royce in Israel, The Daily Beast reported. 

"The threat of ISIS is just something that I believe very strongly that we cannot take lightly. We cannot dither, we cannot just twiddle our thumbs, or wait and see. We have to act and we have to act soon. The more countries that we can get in this crusade to destroy terrorism…the better it will be."

New Hampshire Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen agreed.

"We must use every tool at our disposal, short of introducing ground forces in combat roles, to put an end to the threat they pose to our national security," she said, CNN reported. 

Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson urged America to go after ISIS "right away because the [United States] is the only one that can put together a coalition to stop this group that’s intent on barbaric cruelty."

Bloomberg News and Agence France-Presse contributed to this report.

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