Republicans on Tuesday criticized President Barack Obama’s strategy against the Islamic State (ISIS) group, in the wake of the terrorist attacks in Brussels.
According to The Hill, Republicans in Congress said the coordinated bombings in Belgium which killed more than 30 people show the president’s approach to ISIS is dangerously out of step with the threat.
Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), two vocal detractors of Obama’s foreign policy, said the president needs to change course or risk paying “a grave price for our nation and people.”
“After allowing the ISIL threat to grow and strengthen for years, the administration still has no plausible strategy to destroy ISIL on anything close to an acceptable timeline,” they were quoted by The Hill as having said, using the alternative acronym for ISIS.
Republican senators said the bloodshed in Brussels, as well as in last November's attacks in Paris, both claimed by ISIS, should amplify fears of the jihadist carrying out a similar attack in the United States.
“Today’s terrorist attack is another stark reminder that ISIS poses a direct and very dangerous threat to the American people and to our allies in Europe so long as ISIS has safe havens to operate from in Syria, Iraq, and Libya,” Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said in a statement quoted by The Hill.
The GOP has long been critical of Obama’s approach to ISIS, arguing the president’s early assessment of the group as terrorism’s “JV team” reflects a larger failure to come to terms with the threat to the nation.
Lawmakers have been increasingly critical of the administration’s strategy against ISIS in recent weeks. When hearing testimony from top military officials, lawmakers have repeatedly suggested the administration hasn’t done enough to counter ISIS.
Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, pressed Pentagon officials on Tuesday about when the administration would provide Congress a strategy to defeat ISIS after missing a deadline to do so last month.
Graham, who has repeatedly warned about a forthcoming attack from Syria, said Tuesday the United States has “to go in there on the ground and destroy the caliphate before it comes here”, according to The Hill.
The Brussels attacks have also reignited the debate over accepting refugees from Syria and Iraq into the United States, the website noted.
Lawmakers fear ISIS members could exploit the resettlement program, which on average has a two-year vetting process, to sneak into the country and carry out attacks.
“These senseless terror attacks only reaffirm the urgent need to reverse our country’s lax policies so that we prevent dangerous terrorists from stepping onto U.S. soil under the guise of seeking refuge,” Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) said, according to The Hill.
But any push to pass legislation limiting refugee acceptance would need Democratic support to pass the Senate, where a small number of GOP senators have also voiced skepticism.
Democrats, who in January blocked consideration of a Republican bill that would curb the flow of Syrian and Iraqi refugees into the United States in order to prevent terrorists from slipping in, have given no early indication that the Brussels attacks lessened their opposition to the bill.
Calls to curb the flow of refugees into the United States came already after the Paris attack, when no less than 24 states announced they would block the program to resettle Syrian migrants within their borders.
At the time, President Barack Obama had warned he would veto the bill if it made it to his desk, and also told state officials across the country that states do not have legal authority to refuse to accept Syrian refugees.
Meanwhile, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), expected to be the next Senate Democratic leader, suggested on Tuesday that Congress should focus on increasing airport security as part of a reauthorization bill for Federal Aviation Administration.
He told reporters Democrats would advocate for Transportation Security Administration officer screening, tightening vetting for aviation workers and improving security of airport perimeters.
“We know ISIS is an evil operation. We know that they would like to do something here in the United States,” he added, according to The Hill. “You can never be too careful. We have to look at what happened in Brussels, and in Europe, and, you know, tighten up even more.”