- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 18, 2014

Sen. Ted Cruz tried to get the Senate to consider a measure Thursday providing that any American who joins the fight with terrorist groups such as the Islamic State would immediately renounce their U.S. citizenship, but a Democratic senator objected, saying more time is necessary to weigh the significant constitutional issues it raises.

Ahead of the Senate’s scheduled consideration Thursday afternoon of a proposal to arm and train Syrian rebels, part of President Obama’s strategy to combat the terrorist group, the Texas Republican asked for unanimous consent to pass the Expatriate Terrorist Act he introduced earlier this month.

The measure makes providing support to or fighting for a terrorist group targeting the U.S. “an affirmative renunciation of American citizenship,” Mr. Cruz said on the Senate floor Thursday. He pointed out that former Sens. Joe Lieberman, Connecticut independent, and Scott Brown, Massachusetts Republican, introduced a similar measure several years ago related to al Qaeda.

“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,” Mr. Cruz said.

Sen. Mazie Hirono, Hawaii Democrat, objected, saying the bill has not been brought before the Senate Judiciary Committee and 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.

Mr. Cruz said in response that there is an “urgency and an exigency’ to the situation.

“It is unfortunate that Democratic senators chose to object to this to prevent this common-sense change in law, and I would note when it comes to the constitutional concerns, I don’t know if anyone in this Senate has been more vigorous or more consistent in terms of defending the constitutional rights of Americans that I have endeavored to be during my short tenure here,” he said. “I will yield to no one in passion for defending constitutional liberties … it is current law right now that if you go and join a foreign nation and take up arms against America, that act has long been recognized as constituting a constructive renunciation of United States citizenship.”

He said existing law provides due process for individuals and the measure is a recognition of changing circumstances in the world.

“The question is very simple: would any reasonable person want an American who is right now in Iraq, who is right now training with ISIS, who is right now taking up arms, who is right now participating in crucifying Christians, who is right now beheading children, who [has] right now participated in beheading two American journalists, who is right now standing arm-in-arm with virulent terrorists who have pledged to take jihad to America — would anyone of good conscience in either party want that person to be able to come back and land in LaGuardia airport with a U.S. passport and walk unmolested onto our streets?” he said.

“The obvious answer is no, and it saddens me that we could not see Republicans and Democrats come together,” he continued. “It saddens me that in an election year the Democratic senators up for election chose to block this common-sense legislation, rather than to work together to protect the American citizens. I hope in time we see less election-year politics and more service to the men and women who all of us are obliged to protect.”

• David Sherfinski can be reached at dsherfinski@washingtontimes.com.

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