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Kathy Castor says president can do “much better” at telling ISIS strategy

A CBS News poll released on Monday shows that 66 percent of Americans don’t think President Barack Obama has a clear strategy to defeat the Islamic State.

U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor says she understands where the public is coming from.

“I think President Obama can do much better in communicating that strategy,” the Democrat representing Tampa and parts of St. Petersburg said this morning.

Castor wouldn’t go beyond that when referring to the president’s issues in communicating with the American people, but she has plenty of thoughts about what the country should be doing to effectively ensure that terrorists don’t slip through security in America.

“We’ve got to focus on closing some loopholes,” she said. “The folks who can travel from Europe without having to get a visa at all. If you have traveled to Syria and Iraq over the past few years, you should not be allowed to travel from Europe without a visa, without some screening, into the Unites States.”

Castor also supports a legislative proposal to close a loophole involving terrorists acquiring firearms. California Democratic Sen. Diane Feinstein has proposed a bill that would  ban individuals on the FBI’s consolidated Terrorist Watchlist from buying firearms. Those individuals, according to a Government Accountability Office report from March, were approved 91 percent of the time they sought to buy guns from 2004 to 2014 – purchasing 2,043 firearms.

And, like her Republican colleague David Jolly across Tampa Bay, Castor said it’s past time for Congress to weigh in on an Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF). “They (Congress) have shirked their responsibility for a couple of years, and now we just have got to turn the corner and have that debate and discussion with the administration.”

Castor, though, reserves her greatest ire for the Congressional colleagues when it comes to last week’s vote on the SAFE Act, which will tighten restrictions on Syrian refugees seeking entry into the United States. Not only did every Republican in the House vote for the bill, but so did 47 Democrats, including Gwen Graham and Patrick Murphy from Florida.

“It was an entirely too hasty and it was rushed,” she says when asked about Murphy and Graham’s vote of support for the bill.

“There was no committee meeting, there were no amendments that was allowed, and frankly it was a very weak reaction. You mean there was a very serious terrorist threat, and the only answer the congress can come up with to really show that they were doing something, is to go after a very limited number of victims and families who are the most well screened, traveling to the U.S.,” she said. “Instead it would make more sense to close those loopholes for the folks who have traveled to Iraq and Syria, and then back to Europe. They should be disallowed from coming to America unless they go thru a rigid screening process.”

Feinstein and Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake are working on a bill that  would help guard against terrorists trying to exploit the visa waiver program.

 

Written By

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served five years as political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. Mitch also was assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley and is a San Francisco native who has lived in Tampa since 2000. Mitch can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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