Speaking in Paris, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Monday that Congress needs to implement a series of proposals rather than engage in politically motivated posturing that is “wrong, dangerous and falls far short of what the America people deserve.” Earnest said Congress should also fully fund an aviation security proposal in a budget deal, confirm a counterterrorism financing chief for the Treasury Department and institute a law banning people on the no-fly list from buying guns.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) realizes some important congressional deadlines are coming up, and there remains a possibility that Republicans will push for another government shutdown, but the GOP leader considers it unlikely. McCarthy told reporters yesterday that congressional Republicans are primarily focused on national security and ISIS in the wake of the Paris attacks two weeks ago.
Of course, if that's true, Congress can prove it by doing actual work on the subject.
On the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, President Obama and his team have been quite busy on the counter-terrorism front. In addition to the military offensive against ISIS targets in the Middle East, the White House announced yesterday that Rob Malley, the National Security Council's Coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa, will now "focus solely on efforts to degrade and destroy" ISIS, "ensuring full interagency coordination across all lines of effort."
The Obama administration also announced changes yesterday to "the government’s visa-waiver program to try to stop those who have visited conflict zones from easily boarding American-bound commercial flights, a move intended to prevent an attack in the United States similar to the ones that struck Paris."
Against this backdrop, what's Congress up to? Not much. Republicans occasionally complain about Obama not doing enough about ISIS, but it's the legislative branch that's done practically nothing since the president began targeting ISIS nearly 16 months ago.
White House officials argued yesterday that it's time for Congress to begin doing some real work, starting with authorizing the U.S. military campaign.
So, any chance congressional Republicans will stop talking and start acting?
It's possible, though it's hard to be optimistic. The Senate's GOP majority still hasn't scheduled a vote on Adam Szubin to serve as the Treasury Department’s under secretary for terrorism and financial crimes, despite the fact that he faces no real opposition. After months of delays, Republicans also haven't drafted an AUMF.
The GOP-led Congress is, however, eager to focus on their fear of Syrian refugees, which seems to make the right feel better, despite the fact that it's tangential to the underlying issue lawmakers are supposed to be working on.