Looking Back at 2015...
With the holidays behind us and the second session of the 114th Congress in full swing, the New Year is a good chance to look back at the legislative accomplishments from last year. Too often, the media covers the bickering in Washington, and there is plenty of that. But below the radar, there has been plenty of good accomplished. Here are a few highlights of my work in 2015.
- The Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act, which I authored with Senator Cornyn, overwhelmingly passed both chambers and was signed into law. This law provides resources and education to law enforcement, helps to restore trafficked victims and helps prosecutors put buyers and sellers where they belong: in jail. It has already helped the U.S. Marshalls to locate missing children.
- With the rise of foreign fighters leaving their home countries to join jihad in Iraq and Syria, I introduced HR 237, the FTO Passport Revocation Act. The House passed my bill, which authorizes the Secretary of State to revoke the passport of any individual who has aided or abetted a designated foreign terrorist organization. I also amended S.1356, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016, to require the Secretaries of Defense and State to submit to Congress an assessment of our efforts to disrupt and prevent foreign fighters traveling to Syria and Iraq and traveling from those countries to the U.S.
- Our foreign aid programs have never been audited but yet we continue to send money. To find out whether our foreign aid programs are effective or not, I introduced H.R. 3766, the Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act. This bill requires the President to establish measurable goals and monitoring and evaluation plans for all foreign aid programs and to post that information online. H.R. 3766 unanimously passed the House on December 8, 2015. Senator Marco Rubio has introduced the companion bill in the Senate.
We must fight ISIS wherever we can, including on the cyber battlefield. In 2011, President Obama promised a strategy to counter terrorist use of social media, but he has not delivered a strategy to date. I authored HR 3654, the Counter Terrorist Use of Social Media Act to demand this strategy. The House unanimously passed my bill on December 16, 2015. It is currently pending in the Senate. In addition, the House passed 2 of my amendments to the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016 (HR 2596): (1) One required the Director of National Intelligence to do a coordinated report on how terrorists are using social media, the intelligence value of their social media posts, and the impact to our national security on their public content. And, (2) the other required the Director of National Intelligence to submit a strategy to defeat ISIS and al-Qaeda. Simply put, we cannot expect to defeat terrorist organizations if we don’t have a strategy to do so.
- I continued my fight to protect our 4th amendment privacy rights by prohibiting “backdoor” access to encrypted data without a warrant (amendment to H.R. 2578 passed the House) and by preventing both the use of Section 702 searches without a warrant and the inclusion of “backdoors” onto products and software (amendment to H.R. 4870 passed the House).
- To defeat ISIS, the richest terrorist organization in history, and others we must stop their flow of money. A major source of funding for some is wildlife poaching. I went after the finances of Foreign Terrorist Organizations last year and amended the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016 (HR 2596) to require the Director of National Intelligence to report to Congress on wildlife trafficking, including the nexus between terrorist groups and wildlife trafficking, our strategy on how the US can counter it, and how federal agencies are coordinating on this.
Also, Thursday I was honored to lead the Texas delegation in presenting my friend Colonel Sam Johnson with the Lifetime American Patriot Award for his lifetime of service to America. Colonel Johnson was a Prisoner of War for 7 years in Vietnam. Today he represents the 3rd district of Texas in Congress. His life story is remarkable and inspiring and we are all honored to serve the people of Texas with him in Washington, D.C.