A move by Senate Democrats on Capitol Hill today to block a measure that would revoke the citizenship of U.S. citizens who fight alongside the terrorist organization ISIS had reverberations in New Hampshire, as Republican U.S. Senate candidate Scott Brown charged Sen. Jeanne Shaheen “silently acquiesced” as the measure got put off most likely until after the November election.
The Shaheen campaign did not respond to the New Hampshire Journal’s inquiries about whether she supported the move by Hawaii Democratic Sen. Mazie Hirono blocking consideration of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s “Expatriate Terrorists Act.” A similar bill in the past was viewed favorably by former Secretary of State and likely Democratic 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
The Cruz measure revokes the citizenship of those fighting alongside or providing support to a terrorist group targeting the United States. Republican Cruz, also a potential 2016 presidential hopeful, said that under the bill, such activities would constitute “an affirmative renunciation of American citizenship.”
He pointed out on the Senate floor out that Brown, while in the Senate, joined with Connecticut independent Sen. Joe Lieberman, the Democratic nominee for vice president in 2000, to introduce similar measures several years ago, related to al-Qaida. Those measures did not pass.
“If we do not pass this legislation, the consequence will be that Americans fighting alongside ISIS today may come home tomorrow with a U.S. passport, may come home to New York or Los Angeles or Houston or Chicago and innocent Americans may be murdered if the Senate does not act today,” Cruz said.
Cruz asked for unanimous consent that the bill be considered immediately because the Senate is about to recess, and Cruz said that putting it through the committee process “would mean that it could not pass in time to prevent Americans fighting right now with ISIS from coming back and murdering other Americans.”
But Hirono said the bill should be brought to the Senate Judiciary Committee. She said it affects “fundamental constitutional rights, which should be given the full deliberation of the Senate.
“Legislation that grants the government the ability to strip citizenship from Americans is a serious matter, raising significant constitutional issues,” she said.
Brown on Aug. 29 renewed for his call stripping the citizenship of those fighting alongside ISIS, calling it “common sense” in an interview with the New Hampshire Journal.
On Monday of this week, he called on Shaheen to either re-introduce the bill he and Lieberman championed in 2010 and again in 2011, or sign onto Cruz’s bill.
In response, a Shaheen spokesman told the Boston Globe Shaheen believes “that anyone who fights with ISIS is a traitor and should lose their citizenship. She has been clear on the need for a comprehensive strategy to defeat and destroy ISIS.”
Cruz on the Senate floor Thursday pointed that former Secretary of State Clinton, whom Shaheen has strongly supported over the years, spoke favorably about the Brown-Lieberman bill in 2010.
According to the New York Times of May 6, 2010, Clinton said the State Department already had the authority to rescind the citizenship of people who declare allegiance to a foreign state and said the administration would take “a hard look” at extending those powers to cover terrorism suspects.
“United States citizenship is a privilege,” Clinton said. “It is not a right. People who are serving foreign powers — or in this case, foreign terrorists — are clearly in violation, in my personal opinion, of that oath which they swore when they became citizens.”
Today, current Secretary of State John Kerry, another Shaheen ally, spoke favorably of the idea, although he did not specifically address the Cruz bill. “What I want to make certain,” Kerry told the House Foreign Affairs Committee, according to the Daily Mail, “is that anybody who has a passport (and joins with ISIS) who returns, returns in handcuffs – not through customs with their passport.”
Brown today called the Senate Democrats’ block of the Cruz bill “disgraceful,” saying the measure would have “stopped American ISIS fighters from returning to the United States and inflicting harm on our citizens.
His campaign issued a statement with a strongly-worded title: “Scott Brown’s statement on Jeanne Shaheen’s failure to protect Americans from ISIS.”
“My question is, where was Senator Shaheen?” Brown said. “A strategy against ISIS has to take into account the need to keep them from slipping into the country. Jeanne Shaheen failed to lead on this issue and instead silently acquiesced to the effort to prevent this common sense measure from becoming law.”
Comments by the Shaheen campaign on today’s developments will be added to this report immediately when they are received.