A pair of House lawmakers on Sunday clashed over the likelihood the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) would carry out an attack on the U.S. homeland.
The debate comes after the Obama administration on Friday said the U.S. likely would not follow the United Kingdom in raising its terror alert level because of the threat posed by the militant group.
“We have to face it as much as the British do,” Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), a member of the House Homeland Security Committee, said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”
He said there are potentially thousands of people with Western and European passports that have been inspired to fight alongside the group and potentially head back to their home countries to carry out attacks.
King said President Obama should take action against the group’s targets in Syria, a step the administration is currently weighing.
“What is the president waiting for?” King asked. He added that the president almost ordered airstrikes in Syria last year before he “pulled the rug out” on regional allies.
“We can’t wait forever,” he said.
Rep. Adam SmithAdam SmithTop Dem on hiring freeze hitting military child care: Trump 'should be embarrassed' A guide to the committees: House Tax fairness critical to sustaining growth of energy sector MORE (Wash.), the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, said that while ISIS does pose a threat to U.S. soil, it is not on par with al Qaeda, which worked on “numerous” plots to strike the homeland.
He noted that last year’s airstrikes would have been carried out against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
“We don’t want to come into Syria now on the side of Assad,” Smith said, adding the U.S. “can’t simply bomb first and ask questions later.”
Doing so, he warned, would drive more recruits “into the arms of ISIS.”
King dismissed concerns that U.S. airstrikes in Syria would rally more to fighters to their banner or give them cause to lash out against America.
“They don’t need any excuse,” King said. “The longer we wait, the more dangerous” ISIS becomes.
The pair did agree that the U.S. should do more to assist Ukraine’s military in the wake of Russia’s incursions into the country last week.
Smith said it would be “appropriate” for the administration to go beyond the non-lethal aid it has provided to date.
The U.S. should “make it as painful as possible for [Russian President Vladimir] Putin to make any progress into Ukraine,” Smith said.
King agreed that arms should be given to Kiev’s forces.
“We have to let Putin know there’s going to be a price to pay on this,” he said.