National Security

House Democrats’ Plan to Secure Nation Is Less Than Two Pages Long

Agenda calls for combating online radicalization, gun control

Nancy Pelosi, James Clyburn, Steny Hoyer, Xavier Becerra, Chris Van Hollen
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi talks with Democratic House leaders / AP

House Democratic leaders unveiled a national security agenda that is less than two pages in length and prioritizes combatting online radicalization and restricting gun sales.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.), Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D., Md.), and other leading Democrats unveiled the agenda for a "stronger America" at a Thursday news conference on Capitol Hill.

The three-pronged agenda focuses on securing the nation, its future, and its democracy. The white papers outlining each target area are roughly one-and-a-half pages long.

House Democrats’ brief plan to address national security comes at a time when threats facing the nation and its allies are complex, as demonstrated by Wednesday’s deadly truck attack in Nice, France. The United States is currently waging a campaign against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, deploying troops to Eastern Europe to help NATO deter Russian aggression, attempting to mitigate tensions surrounding China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea, and thwarting domestic terror threats, among other actions to protect U.S. interests.

Last month House Republicans unveiled a 23-page national security and foreign policy agenda—roughly 15 times the length of the proposals released by their Democratic colleagues on Thursday.

The Democrats’ national security agenda presents two "tough and smart" solutions to combat global terror and ISIS: working with allies and combating online radicalization. Self-radicalized terrorists inspired by ISIS have launched attacks inside the United States, including Omar Mateen, who opened fire on a gay nightclub in Orlando last month in what became the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil since September 11, 2001.

"[Eliminating global terrorism] is the nation’s most critical national security challenge. Democrats recognize that a close collaboration with our allies, including our allies in the Middle East, is critical for the success of our efforts. Our counterterrorism efforts are the most effective when we are working closely together with our key allies. In addition, close collaboration with our allies will greatly benefit our intelligence agencies and their effectiveness," the policy document states.

"Democrats are also calling for more aggressive steps to combat online radicalization here in the United States. We need to use the best minds in our technology companies to help us more effectively counter this dangerous online threat."

The policy proposals do not focus on U.S. military activities against ISIS or other terrorist groups abroad, stating only that lawmakers need to ensure that military and homeland security officials have the resources to "eliminate security threats" domestically and abroad.

Currently, U.S. forces are deployed to Iraq and Syria on a train, advise, and assist mission to help local forces combat ISIS, though the Obama administration has insisted they are not engaged in combat operations. Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced this week that an additional 560 troops would be sent to Iraqi to help the Iraqi security forces liberate Mosul from ISIS control. The United States has also led an air campaign against ISIS for nearly two years.

The Democrats’ agenda focuses on budget cuts affecting homeland security officials, calling for an end to sequestration cuts that have targeted the military and domestic programs of particular concern to Democrats. They also recommended increased funding for the FBI’s counterterrorism efforts so that the bureau can add agents and analysts working on domestic counterterrorism operations.

Democratic lawmakers are also pushing two gun control bills as part of its national security agenda: the "No Fly, No Buy" bill that would prevent individuals on the FBI’s terror watch list from purchasing firearms and the King-Thompson Background Check Bill that would mandate background checks for all commercial gun sales. Similar bills failed in the Senate last month, as Senate Democrats simultaneously voted down Republican proposals to boost funding for the FBI’s criminal background check system and delay gun purchases by individuals suspected of terrorist connections.

The agenda also calls on the Department of Homeland Security and the Transportation Security Administration to take steps to boost airport security at home and abroad in the wake of large-scale terror attacks at international airports in Brussels and Istanbul.

"House Democrats’ Stronger America Agenda is built on specific and pragmatic solutions to the challenges facing the American people today," Pelosi said during brief remarks on Thursday. "Democrats are fighting for strong, smart action to bolster our security abroad and keep us safe in our neighborhoods. It’s the oath of office that we take to protect and defend."