Dem senator knocks 'campaign rhetoric' after Brussels attacks

By:  Jordain Carney
The Hill

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) on Wednesday hit back at "campaign rhetoric" over the Brussels terrorist attacks, suggesting Congress should instead reform the Visa Waiver Program.

"Campaign rhetoric and empty tough talk isn't going to protect anyone. The best way we can prevent ISIS from launching a successful attack here is to address the real security gaps that exist in our immigration laws while refusing to engage in the kind of discriminatory policy that will just feed extremist recruiters," Murphy said, referring to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

The Connecticut Democrat outlined four anti-terror proposals that he suggested are "common-sense reforms."

They include passing legislation requiring countries in the Visa Waiver Program — which allows nationals from dozens of countries to travel to the United Stats without a visa — to "fully implement" information-sharing agreements, consult with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on their ability to collect and share data and share information on foreign fighters.

"The U.S. must aid our European allies in investigating and tracking terror suspects, supporting continent-wide information sharing, and ensuring that if European authorities know something, U.S. law enforcement agencies know it too," he said.

Murphy, a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, is pressing for the European Union to implement a continent-wide counterterrorism strategy. He also wants the United States to offer more assistance to Europe and for European governments to "resist the temptation to put up walls (literally and figuratively)" in response to the attacks.

His comments come after GOP presidential front-runner Donald Trump called for "closing up" U.S. borders and fellow candidate Ted Cruz backed monitoring Muslim communities.

Tuesday's attacks in Brussels, which killed at least 31 people, marked the latest in a major European city over the past year. ISIS quickly claiming responsibility for the violence.

Murphy said "over the past six months, it’s become clear that the anti-terror capabilities of our European partners are too often overmatched by an ever-evolving enemy hiding in plain sight."

Democrats have focused on reforming the Visa Waiver Program after attacks in Paris last year sparked concern from lawmakers that members of terrorist groups could use the program to travel to the United States and carry out an attack.

As part of the omnibus spending bill passed late last year, any individual who has traveled to Iraq, Iran, Sudan or Syria since 2011 must now get a visa to travel to the United States. The new rules also apply to individuals from a country in the visa program who have dual nationality with Iraq, Iran, Sudan or Syria.