President Obama Archives - Page 4 of 33 - Florida Politics

Florida Democratic delegation calls on Rick Scott to extend registration deadline to Oct. 14

(UPDATE) As Gov. Rick Scott continues to offer updates on Hurricane Matthew while it slowly moves up Florida’s Atlantic Coast, members of Florida’s Democratic delegation are calling on him to extend the voter registration deadline from next Tuesday to Friday, Oct. 14.

“We strongly urge you to extend the deadline for our citizens to register to vote in November’s election, at least from October 11th to October 14th,” reads the letter. “It goes without saying that our democracy is stronger when more people vote. With a natural disaster on our doorstep, registering to vote understandably will not be possible in the immediate aftermath of such a significant storm. Of course, clean up and dealing with storm-related damage will be many Floridians’ primary focus.”

The letter was sent by Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and co-signed by Sen. Bill Nelson, and Congress members Alcee Hastings, Corrine Brown, Kathy Castor, Ted Deutch, Frederica Wilson, Alan Grayson, Lois Frankel, Patrick Murphy, and Gwen Graham.

Scott rejected such a request made on Thursday by the Hillary Clinton campaign.

“I’m not going to extend it,” the governor told reporters Thursday. “Everybody has had a lot of time to register. On top of that, we have lots of opportunities to vote: early voting, absentee voting, Election Day. So I don’t intend to make any changes.”

Another Republican governor whose state is preparing to be hit by Hurricane Matthew, South Carolina’s Nikki Haley, has extended her state’s registration deadline, which was scheduled for Saturday. That prompted the ACLU of Florida to join the Democratic delegation in calling on Scott to extend Florida’s registration deadline.

Later on Friday the ACLU of Florida made their own request to extend the voter registration deadline.

“This is a simple, non-partisan request for the governor to use his authority to ensure that every eligible voter has the opportunity to participate in this important election,” said ACLU of Florida Executive Director Howard Simon. “Preparing our state for a natural disaster and enabling full and fair participation in our democratic process aren’t mutually exclusive – in fact, they should go hand in hand.”

There has been some speculation the Democrats may sue Scott to extend the registration deadline if he doesn’t adhere to their request. But as election expert Rick Hasen wrote on Thursday in Slate, Scott could be sued for actually extending the deadline on the basis that such an extension is illegal, since only the Florida Legislature is allowed to set the rules on presidential elections.

The request to extend the deadline is hardly trivial, as parts of the state contend with the hurricane. As as has been widely reported in the past 24 hours, University of Florida political science professor Dan Smith has estimated “roughly” 50,000 people were registered in Florida over the last five days before the deadline in 2012.

Read the letter below:

Dear Governor Scott:

Thank you for your leadership and all of the hard work that you and state employees are doing to ensure the safety and security of Floridians as we prepare for Hurricane Matthew and related tropical storm and hurricane watches and warnings.

We appreciate your steady communication with federal, state, and local leaders, as well as public health, transportation, and law enforcement experts, to ensure our state is fully prepared for evacuations, shelter openings, prevention of power outages, monitoring of fuel supply, search and rescue, and provisioning of resources and supplies.

As you have rightly cautioned our citizens, Hurricane Matthew is a life-threatening storm that Floridians must take seriously, or risk being killed by it. President Obama has officially declared Hurricane Matthew’s expected impact in Florida to be a federal emergency, and we will work with you to ensure Florida has the federal recovery resources and support we need.

Some of the potential impacts of the storm include structural damage to even the sturdiest buildings, which will be worsened by large airborne projectiles, and make some locations uninhabitable for months. In addition, we can expect trees to snap or uproot, rendering many roads impassable and causing widespread power and communications outages.

The federal government has further cautioned that surging and deadly winds are not the only areas of concern — major rainfall flooding can also be life-threatening, with rivers and tributaries rapidly overflowing their banks, causing flood control systems and barriers to become stressed, and escape routes to become submerged.

The bottom line is that Floridians do not and should not have anything on their minds right now other than keeping themselves and their families safe from what could be a historic Category 4 blow to a large part of our state. As a result, it will be logistically challenging and likely impossible for many who would like to register to vote to be able to do so before the impending deadline on October 11th.

We strongly urge you to extend the deadline for our citizens to register to vote in November’s election, at least from October 11th to October 14th. It goes without saying that our democracy is stronger when more people vote.  With a natural disaster on our doorstep, registering to vote understandably will not be possible in the immediate aftermath of such a significant storm. Of course, clean up and dealing with storm-related damage will be many Floridians’ primary focus.

Therefore, we respectfully request an extension of the voter registration deadline so that we may ensure the franchise, the integrity of our democracy, and the rights we as Americans hold dear, are fully protected.

As elected officials, we must do all that we can to keep our citizens safe as well as safeguard the freedom of every individual to elect their representatives, from the state house to the White House.

 

 

Mitch Perry Report for 9.29.16 — Congress is free to go home. Again.

First of all, congratulations to the uber-hip readers at Creative Loafing who, in their Best of the Bay voting for Best Reporter in 2016, selected a columnist who retired two years ago.

Congratulations also to our U.S. Congress who, by voting for a budget bill last to avoid a government shutdown, now gets to skip town for another two months before returning for an inevitable lame-duck session.

Wait a minute, some of you might think — didn’t they just have a seven-week summer break? Hey, that ended more than three weeks ago, silly.

Actually, let’s look at the details: Part of the deal includes passing a $1.1 billion Zika funding bill, as well as $500 million to Louisiana and other states facing natural disasters.

One of the hangups with why Congress hadn’t previously passed a Zika bill was that the GOP wanted to strip money for Planned Parenthood to combat the mosquito-borne virus. But they lost that gambit, as PP does get funding in the new bill.

Not that all of the Democrats were gracious in victory.

“It is deeply disappointing that until now, Republicans have insisted that the most appropriate response to a virus that overwhelmingly affects pregnant women was to place a politically motivated ban on funding for reproductive healthcare providers,” said Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Indeed, there’s nothing like a deadline. Government funding is scheduled to run out tomorrow. And, of course, there are elections to campaign in. You know, elections for the 435 members of the House where 96 percent of them are expected to win re-election.

Conservatives, meanwhile, are pissed again, saying Republican members sold out — again. POLITICO reports Heritage Action’s Dan Holler is blasting the deal, saying “House Republicans accept being jammed and essentially sit on the sidelines” and Hill Republicans “negotiate behind closed doors with Democrats, essentially giving them what they want.”

In other news …

After several disasters and many attempts, Florida finally scored yesterday when President Obama declared the state after Hurricane Hermine to be a disaster area, which is good news locally for folks in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties.

Hillsborough County Commission District 1 Democratic candidate Jeff Zampitella is challenging Sandy Murman in her bid for re-election this fall.

House District 66 candidates Larry Ahern and Lorena Grizzle were the only direct combatants at Wednesday’s Suncoast Tiger Bay Club meeting.

Meanwhile, Clearwater state Rep. Chris Latvala is the latest Pinellas Republican to throw some shade at the St. Pete Democratic administration in the wake of “Sewergate.”

And Michelle Obama wasn’t only in Pennsylvania campaigning for Hillary Clinton on Wednesday, but she also cut her first TV ad for the Democratic nominee, pushing the whole “role model” thing in comparison to you-know-who.

Bill Nelson seconds Rick Scott’s call for Hermine disaster declaration

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson has joined Gov. Rick Scott’s appeal to the Obama administration to declare much of Florida a disaster zone.

“I am writing to urge that you approve the State of Florida’s request for a major disaster declaration related to Hurricane Hermine as soon as possible,” Nelson wrote in a letter to President Obama dated Wednesday.

“The eye of Hurricane Hermine made landfall on Sept. 2, 2016, in northern Florida, but the impacts of the storm affected many counties across the state, including flash flooding far down the western coast of Florida,” Nelson said.

“State and local government officials have led a concerted effort to help their communities recover, but federal assistance is needed. A major disaster declaration from you would provide vital resources to bolster Florida’s response and recovery.”

Scott wrote his letter to Obama Tuesday, noting that Hermine left $36 million in damage in the state.

A presidential disaster declaration would provide federal resources to support recovery efforts, both in individual assistance for families and public assistance to state agencies and local governments.

Thirty-eight counties have declared local state emergencies, 39 opened emergency operations centers and 34 opened shelters, Scott said.

“During the preceding 12 months, the state of Florida experienced repeated emergencies that required the development of significant state resources,” he wrote. “Individually these incidents may not have overwhelmed the ability of the State of Florida to respond. Cumulatively, however, these emergencies significantly impacted the state’s capability to provide financial support following Hurricane Hermine.”

U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, a Democrat whose district includes Tallahassee, also supported a federal disaster declaration.

“I fully support Governor Rick Scott’s request for federal assistance and renew my call on President Obama to approve all available and applicable help for North Florida quickly,” Graham said Tuesday.

Mitch Perry Report for 9.16.16 —What will become of Edward Snowden?

Oliver Stone’s “Snowden” arrives in theaters today, and with it comes a campaign to have the former NSA contractor receive a pardon from the commander in chief.

At a press conference Wednesday, representatives from the ACLU, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International spoke out in support of getting President Barack Obama to pardon Snowden.

“Cases like Edward Snowden’s are precisely why the presidential pardon power exists,” said Anthony Romero, the ACLU’s executive director, who referred specifically to cases when mitigating circumstances merit forgiveness for a crime.

But comments by the current occupant of the White House and the two people competing to replace him don’t indicate any newfound desire to grant him that pardon. Hillary Clinton has said Snowden shouldn’t be brought home “without facing the music,” while Donald Trump has said, “I think he’s a total traitor and I would deal with him harshly.”

In an op-ed published in the New York Times Thursday, Kenneth Roth of Human Rights Watch and Salil Shetty with Amnesty International wrote, “The enormous value of Mr. Snowden’s revelations is clear. What was their harm? Scant evidence has been provided for many officials’ ominous statements. Some officials have warned that the terrorism-related activity of certain groups has become harder to monitor, but the most dangerous adversaries have always taken precautions against surveillance, with at least one independent study showing little impact from the Snowden revelations.”

They went on to write that, “what has changed is that since the staggering extent of government surveillance became known, the public has sought greater privacy, and corporations have begun to provide it on widely used platforms. No doubt, among the millions of users of encrypted technologies there are a few who hide criminal activity. But the rest of us just want our privacy back.”

Members of our military, however, say Snowden gave away a lot. In 2014, then-Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Martin Dempsey said that “the vast majority of the documents … had nothing to do with exposing government oversight of domestic activities,” but “were related to our military capabilities, operations, tactics, techniques, and procedures.”

I loved Oliver Stone’s films from the ’80s like “Salvador,” “Wall Street,” and “Platoon.” Can he still come up with the goods? It’s got a high bar to cross: Laura Poitras’ electrifying documentary on Snowden, “Citizenfour,” won the 2015 Oscar for Best Documentary.

In an interview with USA Today, Stone says the U.S. is doing far more than people know when it comes to cyber-warfare, which makes sense, actually.

“They see the surface of the news — the Russians are attacking us, the Chinese are hacking us — but they never hear we’re hacking them first,” he says. “But when you do this kind of warfare, it comes back to haunt you.”

In other news …

The Tampa City Council has approved red-light cameras in the city for at least another two years.

Councilman Charlie Miranda went off an epic rant about taxpayer support for major league sports franchise stadiums, and other things yesterday.

Patrick Murphy joined nearly all of his House Democratic colleagues (sans Gwen Graham) in opposing a GOP bill preventing any more transfers of prisoners from Guantanamo Bay.

Dennis Ross co-sponsors bill to prohibit ransom payments to Iran

Last month, the Wall Street Journal first reported that the Obama administration secretly organized an airlift of $400 million worth of cash to Iran that coincided with the January release of four Americans detained in Tehran.

The money represented the first installment of a $1.7 billion settlement the Obama administration reached with Iran over a long-held dispute over a failed arms deal just before the Shah of Iran lost power in 1979.

After that news broke, White House spokesman Josh Earnest rejected suggestions the money transfer to Iran was ransom or a secret.

Two weeks later, however, the State Department confirmed the U.S. conditioned the release of that cash payment to Iran on the departure of American prisoners from Tehran.

The news outraged Republicans, with some calling for a congressional hearing to discuss the matter further.

Now comes legislation co-sponsored by Polk County Republican Dennis Ross that will prohibit further cash payments to the Iranian government.

“I co-sponsored H.R. 5931 because the president must be held accountable for putting American lives and our national security at risk,” Ross said in a statement on Tuesday. “The $400 million cash ransom the Obama Administration easily handed over to Iran is unsettling and calls into question the president’s actions as they pertain to the ‘no concessions’ policy.”

Congressional Republicans never signed on to the landmark nuclear deal that the U.S. made with the P5 +1 group of world powers last fall, and the report about the $400 million cash made public last month has only angered them further.

“The Obama Administration continues to mislead the American people about this horrible deal, while Iran repeatedly violates the deal with no repercussions,” Ross said. “Not only has Iran been permitted to improve its capability of producing enriched uranium, it also has been allowed to develop advanced uranium centrifuges, deny IAEA inspectors access to its facilities, acquire nuclear technology, and deploy an advanced Russian missile defense system to protect its uranium enrichment facility from airstrikes.”

Ross says that this bill, sponsored by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce of California, ensures a similar transfer of funds to Iran can’t happen again. “H.R. 5931 makes clear the Obama Administration violated longstanding U.S. policy by releasing prisoners and paying ransom for the return of Americans held hostage by Iran, prohibits cash payments to Iran, and demands transparency on future settlements to ensure they are not used to pay ransom.”

The bill has drawn 44 Republican co-sponsors, and will be brought up before the Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday.

The Senate introduced a similar bill under Florida Sen. Marco Rubio that would prohibit the federal government from paying ransom. It would also stop payments to Iran from the U.S. Treasury Department’s Judgment Fund until Iran returns money it received and pays American victims of Iranian terrorism what they are owed.

Ross is running for re-election to his seat in Florida’s 15th Congressional District, running against Democrat Jim Lange.

Mitch Perry Report for 8.22.16 — Who’s down with TPP?

Good morning, y’all. Welcome to the last full week of campaigning before your Aug. 30 primary election in the Sunshine State.

Before we get into the news of the day, how was your weekend? I went and saw a couple of good, if somewhat overrated movies (“Come Hell or High Water,” “Don’t Think Twice”), and finished reading an underrated novel (Jay McInerney’s “Bright, Precious Days”).

I also voted, as the majority of Floridians will do, before next week’s primary election. Not much more to say about that, other than I now have to contact the supervisor of elections to return to being a Non-Party Affiliated voter.

One of the issues Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton agree on is they don’t like the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the regional trade agreement between the U.S. and 11 Pacific Rim nations.

Although a lot of progressives don’t trust Clinton’s conversion on the agreement and fear she’ll turn around and push for it if she’s elected in the fall, the fact of the matter is, the agreement may already be approved before either her or Trump is inaugurated in January.

As the New York Times Jackie Calmes reports, President Obama will be making a big push for Congress to pass the agreement during the lame duck session of Congress, probably in December.

John Kerry, Ash Carter, Michael Mullen, and former GOP Maine Senator and Defense Secretary William Cohen will also be making the rounds to campaign for the TPP.

Will it be enough? Obama will also have surrogates like Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn pushing that the deal will be good for the Tampa Bay and Florida economy.

But with opposition to trade deals being a major tangible issue that both the far-right and far-left can agree on, can POTUS get that last legislative and diplomatic achievement added to his ledger as he closes out his presidency?

In other news …

A poll published yesterday has Debbie Wasserman Schultz leading Tim Canova in Florida’s 23rd Congressional District by 10 percentage points.

After our story last week about the fact that it looked Eric Lynn and Ben Diamond wouldn’t be engaging in a one-on-one debate before the Aug. 30 primary, we offered up the weekly radio show I host as a possible venue — and the candidates have accepted.

HD 60 candidate Jackie Toledo has been talking tough on immigration, despite the actions of her spouse a few years ago.

Kevin Beckner reacted Friday to Mike Deeson‘s report about the Hillsborough PTC pulling their money out of the clerk of the court’s office.

The candidates in the Senate District 19 race met up at the Tampa Tiger Bay Club forum on Friday.

Tim Schock hasn’t said much about Jim Norman‘s “issues” in their Hillsborough County Commission District 6 Republican race — until now.

Code Pink co-founder Medea Benjamin was all over the Tampa Bay area this weekend making the rounds for her new book on the U.S.- Saudi Arabia relationship. You can read our interview with her here.

Mitch Perry Report for 8.10.16 — Aleppo needs water

I’m sure that after you got yourself up this morning, you might have reached for a cup of coffee, juice or water.

It’s something that we don’t have to think too hard about, usually.

Now let’s go across the globe — to Aleppo, Syria.

The United Nations on Tuesday called for a “humanitarian pause” in the fighting in Aleppo to allow for immediate access to repair the electricity and water networks. They report that between 250,000-275,000 people have been trapped in east Aleppo for more than a month following the closure of a local road, the last road into that specific area.

“Since 6 August, Khanasser road, the main access route into west Aleppo has also been cut, bringing the total number of civilians living in de facto fear of besiegement to over two million,” their statement said yesterday.

Yes, I’m referring to the civil war in Syria, now deep into its fifth year, and a war that rages on without any immediate hope in the future. But as the fighting continues, there are literally two million people in Aleppo who can’t get access to fresh drinking water.

This should be unacceptable in 2016. There’s obviously a reason why this war rages on — President Obama has said President Bashar al-Assad must go as a precondition for any settlement talks. But that was before the Islamic State began conquering large swathes of land in Syria. Then there was Russia’s intervention a year ago, supposedly to go after the terrorists. However, it’s hard to tell if they’re there just to go after the groups who want to bring down Assad.

It’s a total mess, and has been for years. And there’s been little discussion of Syria on the campaign trail.

So the world doesn’t really pay too much attention to it. But today, two million people are in need of water in Aleppo.

In other news …

Eric Lynn has a poll out showing him leading Ben Diamond in the House District 68 race by 12 percentage points. But wait, Diamond has his own poll that shows him leading Lynn by 9 points.

The Kevin Beckner campaign accuses Pat Frank of failing women and minorities in the hiring and paying of salaries at the clerk’s office — but Frank fires back, and says Beckner has never hired a person of color in his office.

A Latina activist blasts the Florida Democratic Party for failing to hold to their promise and hire a bilingual communications official.

A sampling of conversations with Hillary Clinton supporters in St. Petersburg shows they feel confident she’ll be able to work with Republicans in Congress if elected in the fall.

The Hillsborough County PTC meets this morning, the first time since Chairman Victor Crist was cleared of an ethics complaint.

Mark Bircher says if David Jolly can’t “get there” in backing Donald Trump for president, Pinellas GOP should back him, and not Jolly, in the name of party unity.

Daniel Webster has another ad up in the CD 11 contest.

The Debbie Wasserman Schultz campaign doesn’t think much of Tim Canova’s complaint with the FEC that she was conspiring against him by using DNC resources.

Mark Bircher says if David Jolly can’t support Donald Trump, Pinellas GOP should back his candidacy in CD 13 primary

All the talk about the David JollyCharlie Crist battle in Florida’s 13th Congressional District contest this race ignores the fact that Jolly DOES have an opponent in the Republican primary later this month.

He’s retired Marine General Mark Bircher, and he said that in the name of party unity, the Pinellas County Republican establishment should rally around his candidacy later this month, unless his opponent sees the light and gets behind Donald Trump‘s candidacy for president.

“We cannot accept divided loyalties when so much is at stake,” Bircher said in a statement. “If Rep. Jolly refuses to endorse Mr. Trump, the Pinellas Republican party leadership should throw its full support to the 13th Congressional District House candidate who supports the nominee. If the party will not support party unity, then the voters must do so on the ballot.”

Bircher is running for the Republican nomination for Congress for the second time in two-and-a-half years. He finished third behind Jolly and state legislator Kathleen Peters in the special Republican primary election in January 2014, held just a few months after C.W. Bill Young died after more than 42 years in office.

“Mr. Trump was not my first choice during the primary, but he is my first choice now,” Bircher said regarding who he will vote for president in November. “Any candidate for federal office who directly or indirectly supports Mrs. Clinton in her quest to preserve the Obama legacy and and continue to ‘fundamentally transform’ America is unacceptable. We can rely upon Gov. Crist to promote the Clinton/Obama agenda in the general election; we do not need our Republican candidate to reinforce that effort in our own party primary. The Republic has withstood eight years of deliberately destructive policy; the outcome may be in doubt under four more years of the same.”

Bircher is running an uphill battle to topple Jolly, who originally announced last year he would not run for re-election to the congressional seat, and instead would attempt to become a U.S. Senator, succeeding Marco Rubio.

However, Rubio changed the political trajectories of several Republicans who were running for Senate when he re-entered the race in June. In Jolly’s case, he had just enough time to qualify to run for re-election to his congressional seat.

Jolly has not definitely said he will not vote for Trump. Instead, he has said that “he is not there yet” in recent months when asked if he could support The Donald in November.

Pinellas County Republican Executive Committee Chair Nick DiCeglie responded in an email.

“In order for local parties to endorse in the primary a two thirds vote is required. Our last meeting prior to the August 30th Primary took place last night (8/8) and there are no additional meetings prior to the Primary Election for such a vote to take place. The Republican Party of Pinellas County is looking forward to focusing our efforts to defeat Charlie Crist in November.”

He also notes that the Pinellas County Republicans held a straw poll on Sunday with over 220 members and activists casting ballots, and Jolly defeated Bircher, capturing 79 percent of the vote.

The Jolly campaign said the issue was between Bircher and the party, and declined to comment.

Joe Henderson: The Zika crisis should be above party politics

Mosquitoes don’t ask for a person’s political party affiliation before they bite. So now that the bug-borne Zika virus is a certified health emergency you might think this is one time red and blue can come together.

(Insert laugh track HERE.)

It’s no laughing matter though. If a pregnant woman contracts Zika, her child could be born with microcephaly — a brain disorder that can cause lifelong problems with speech, motor skills, seizures and intellectual development.

Against that backdrop, Sunday’s appearance by Gov. Rick Scott on “Meet The Press” reminded everyone why Washington is an unholy mess. This time pregnant woman in Florida are the pawns in yet another ugly showdown that ignores the common good.

The emergency funding both Scott and President Barack Obama requested to fight Zika is hung up because some of the money might be earmarked for Planned Parenthood to help women with Zika-related pregnancy cases.

Or it might not be.

Senate Democrats say Republicans have balked at approving the money over that issue, but Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who is running for re-election, told POLITICO over the weekend that’s not so.

“The words ‘Planned Parenthood’ don’t appear anywhere in the law,” he said.

“…The Planned Parenthood angle is something they basically made up to have a political reason not to pass Zika so they can come back in August and campaign on it,” he said. “That’s what I mean by political volleyball. Both sides have played that game.”

While Washington sees this issue as great fodder for campaign attack ads, the $1.1 billion funding request (trimmed from $1.9 billion Obama asked for) is stalled. The number of Zika cases keep increasing, and the unborn are at risk because the D.C. dunderheads put ideology and party first.

Republicans generally loathe Planned Parenthood because the organization, which receives about $500 million annually in federal taxpayer funding, gives women access to abortions.

Rubio doubled down on that by telling POLITICO pregnant women infected with Zika should not be allowed to have an abortion.

“I understand a lot of people disagree with my view — but I believe that all human life is worthy of protection of our laws. And when you present it in the context of Zika or any prenatal condition, it’s a difficult question and a hard one,” he said.

Well, that’s an important issue and is worthy of debate, although the law of the land is clear abortion is legal. So Rubio’s opinion is just that — his opinion.

But what about Zika?

The mosquitoes keep coming and does Zika. As of Friday, there were 408 cases of the virus in Florida with more on likely on the way. So while Washington dithers, Scott noted in his appearance on “Meet The Press” that while the state has spent $26.2 million to combat the virus, this is an international health issue.

“We still need the federal government to show up,” Scott said.

(Insert second laugh track HERE.)

It’s an election year, and a public health crisis will always come in second.

Vern Buchanan tells President Obama to stop accepting Syrian refugees

Taking his cue from a warning by FBI Director James Comey of “a terrorist diaspora out of Syria like we’ve never seen before,” Sarasota area GOP Congressman Vern Buchanan is calling on the White House to put an immediate halt to accepting Syrian refugees into the U.S.

“Terrorists are leaving Syria disguised as refugees and carrying out attacks in the West,” Buchanan wrote in a letter addressed to President Obama on Thursday. “The prudent course of action is to halt all admissions of Syrians into the U.S. until the safety of Americans can be guaranteed.”

In response to the emerging migrant crisis in Europe and the Middle East last summer, Obama ordered his administration last September to dramatically “scale up” the number of Syrian refugees welcomed into the United States by the end of the fiscal year, setting a target of 10,000.

The U.S. admitted more than 2,300 Syrian refugees in June, sending the fiscal year total soaring past the 5,000 mark, the Washington Times reported in late June. According to data from the State Department Refugee Processing Center, a total of 7,751 Syrian refugees have been admitted into the U.S. since the beginning of last October, and nearly 5,000 in the last two months alone.

In his letter, Buchanan is seizing on Comey’s comments before Congress last week that the defeat of ISIS soldiers in Syria and Iraq will likely result in dispersing terrorists elsewhere, including America. “At some point there is going to be a terrorist diaspora out of Syria like we’ve never seen before.” Comey added, “Not all of the Islamic State killers are going to die on the battlefield.”

Homeland Security head Jeh Johnson testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee June 30 that Washington had “added security checks to the process where they are warranted” and overcome early hurdles, but Buchanan clearly was not placated by that statement.

Read his letter below:

August 4, 2016

The Honorable Barack Obama
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

I urge you to immediately stop accepting Syrian refugees as a matter of national security. The chilling prediction by FBI Director James Comey of “a terrorist diaspora out of Syria like we’ve never seen before” warrants an immediate freeze on Syrian refugees.

Director Comey warned the nation last week that the defeat of ISIS soldiers in Syria and Iraq will likely result in their dispersal elsewhere, including America.

The FBI director’s warning that the collapse of the caliphate will mean increased attacks in Western Europe and the United States mirrors an alarming consensus among intelligence officials.

We are seeing a clear pattern in which a number of recent attacks have been carried out by ISIS terrorists with ties to Syria, including: the July 24 bombing of a music festival in Germany; the July 26 killing of a French priest; and the July 24 murder of a German woman with a machete. Syrian refugees played a part, either as attackers or accomplices, in all three attacks.

In the context of this clear threat, your goal of admitting 10,000 Syrians as a part of a so-called “surge operation” is extremely troubling, particularly given that White House press secretary Josh Earnest recently admitted that the screening process “typically takes 12 to 18 months … the reason for that process is that the safety and security of the U.S. homeland comes first.”

I urge you to work with world leaders to create a safe zone for refugees inside Syria or in a neighboring country. According to data from the Center for Immigration Studies, the U.S. could support the resettlement of 12 refugees in the Middle East for the cost of caring for one refugee in the U.S.

Terrorists are leaving Syria disguised as refugees and carrying out attacks in the West. The prudent course of action is to halt all admissions of Syrians into the U.S. until the safety of Americans can be guaranteed.

Sincerely,

Vern Buchanan

Member of Congress

 

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