Barletta Responds to Obama’s Final State of the Union Speech

Sunbury Daily Item

Prez fails to trumpet plans to thwart ISIS, GOP says

January 13, 2016

By Rick Dandes

U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, R-11, of Hazleton, said Obama “indulged in a victory lap in his final State of the Union address, despite all of the mounting problems this country faces as a result of decisions he has made over the last seven years.”

Obama made a big show of leaving a seat empty to represent victims of gun violence, but he failed, Barletta said, to leave a space for Kate Steinle — the young woman murdered in San Francisco by an illegal immigrant, “a crime that is sadly representative of the failure of this president to enforce immigration laws.”

Barletta also called out Obama on what Barletta said was the president’s failure to initially recognize the danger posed by ISIS, and the domestic failure of Obamacare.

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Barletta Response to Obama’s Executive Order on Firearms

The Sentinel

Barletta, Perry respond to Obama’s executive action on firearms

January 5, 2016

By Sentinel Staff

Republican Congressmen Lou Barletta and Scott Perry were quick to respond Tuesday to President Barack Obama’s executive actions on firearms.

Both congressmen said the president’s orders wouldn’t have prevented any of the shooting incidents he cited while calling for tougher gun laws.

Obama’s executive order expands background checks on buyers by requiring more sellers to register as federally licensed gun dealers.

Barletta and Perry released the following statements:

“Once again, the president finds himself unable to guide his unpopular policies through Congress – as the Constitution requires – and so he circumvents the legislature by using executive fiat to achieve his political goals. The president could have rammed these changes through when his party controlled both chambers of Congress for two years, but instead he has waited to issue these edicts in order to achieve the most division possible among Americans.

“I am a firm believer in the 2nd Amendment and I cannot support the further erosion of these guaranteed rights for law-abiding citizens. I also will never support anything that resembles a national gun registry. To rule by executive order and undermine the rights of law-abiding gun owners is contrary to our founding principles.
“We can all agree that those with histories of dangerous mental health problems should not have access to firearms, and we should all support laws that keep guns out of the hands of criminals, drug traffickers, gang members, and terrorists. The changes the president has ordered, however, would have prevented exactly none of the incidents he has cited as the basis for tightening gun laws. I only wish the president had the same enthusiasm for background checks on potential terrorists and illegal immigrants as he does for law-abiding citizens.”

— Congressman Lou Barletta, (R-11th District)

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Barletta Lays Out Priorities for 2016

The Daily Item

Barletta, Marino see full agendas for the new year

January 3, 2016

By Francis Scarcella

SUNBURY — In the year leading up to re-election, U.S. Reps. Lou Barletta and Tom Marino say they are proud of their accomplishments and are looking forward to 2016, including defeating ISIS.

Barletta, R-11, of Hazleton, will continue the fight against illegal immigration, protecting national security interests from refugees and problems with visas, preserving funding for SHINE, preventing heavier trucks from hitting the highways, and protecting steel jobs in Pennsylvania, he said.

“The world is changing rapidly, and Congress must continue to work to address the evolving challenges we face as a nation,” Barletta said. “In 2015, we addressed many of those needs, and also found solutions to problems we have long been facing. But there’s still work to be done.”

One of Barletta’s biggest challenges in 2016 will be the highway bill, he said.

Barletta, a member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, was among House conferees appointed to negotiate the particulars of a five-year $305 billion highway bill, which included many of Barletta’s highest priorities for the U.S. transportation system and its infrastructure, he said. While voting for the bill, Barletta did express disappointment that the bill was a missed opportunity to develop serious reforms in transportation funding.

The three-term congressman was able to defeat efforts that would have increased the weight limit for trucks from 80,000 pounds to 91,000 pounds. Barletta said local roads were not built to handle the increased weight, and the heavier trucks would pose a greater danger to their drivers and other motorists.

Barletta, also a member of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, supported the Student Success Act, which replaces “No Child Left Behind,” and rescues federal funding for afterschool programs such as SHINE, originally slated to be eliminated. Barletta intervened and was instrumental in developing SHINE, or “Schools and Homes In Education.”

Barletta also continued his 2015 “Main Street Tours” when he visited the Valley several times over the summer and walked the streets of various towns, including Sunbury.

Barletta said he will continue the fight against illegal immigration and for national security, particularly in light of the rise of ISIS and other terrorism threats. He also wants to protect legal immigrant and American workers against illegal immigrants who would take their jobs under Obama’s executive amnesty.

“The rise of ISIS reminds us that terrorism threats are still with us, and a strong policy against illegal immigration must be part of any national security plan,” Barletta said. “The 9/11 Commission report taught us that terrorists want two things: to gain entry into this country, and to be able to stay here to carry out their missions. Our borders are porous, our visa system is dysfunctional, and the refugee program is full of gaping holes. It also seems that too often, people in Washington are looking out only for those who break our laws to come into this country. It’s time we started taking care of the American worker. I will continue to be a leader in all of these areas.”

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Barletta Says False ID Case Shows Flawed Refugee Screening Process

Weatherford Democrat

“Refugee Case Shows Screening Gaps”

December 21, 2015

By Kery Murakami

WASHINGTON – Two months before debate over Syrian refugees heated up, a federal jury in Kentucky convicted an Iraqi man of entering the United States under an assumed identity.

Ali Al-Kadumi used a fake ID with another man’s name, Hussein Naji Selman, when he sought refuge in 1998, according to the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Kentucky. …

Rep. Lou Barletta, R-Pennsylvania, a member of the House Homeland Security Committee, said the Al-Kadumi case reveals a “flawed” process that poses “a grave security risk.”

Barletta is co-sponsoring a bill that suspends funding for the refugee program until the Department of Homeland Security reports to Congress on the activities of those admitted since 2001.

“How much more proof do we need before we admit that our screening process is broken?” he said.

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Barletta Statement on ISIS Supporter Arrested in Harrisburg


“‘A sophisticated enemy walking right among us’: U.S. leaders react to ISIS arrest in Harrisburg”

December 17, 2015

By Candy Woodall

Current and former U.S. leaders say it was just a matter of time before ISIS reached Harrisburg. …

Congressman Lou Barletta, R-Hazleton, issued the following statement:

“I commend the FBI for their fine work in this case, which underscores what we know already about how the Islamic State prefers to conduct its business. They will take advantage of those who sympathize with them, or have been radicalized, whether they are American citizens or new arrivals to this country. ISIS has said, ‘American blood is the best, and we will taste it soon.’ And I believe them.

“There are so many gaping holes in our national security system that now is the worst time possible to be throwing open our doors, when we cannot know for sure who it is that we are letting in. There are flaws in our screening process, problems with our visa programs, and serious failings in our refugee program. I repeat my opposition to allowing Syrian refugees into the country – and Pennsylvania – while we still are unable to properly screen the applicants. We should also be taking care to monitor social media channels, because we know it is the preferred method of communication for aspiring terrorists like the one captured today.

“Our law enforcement professionals did an exemplary job with this arrest, but it is a reminder that they must get it right every single time in order to keep Americans safe. Terrorists only need to get it right once.”

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Barletta Talks Top Issues with Hazleton Standard Speaker Editors and Reporters

Hazleton Standard Speaker

“Barletta Examines Refugee Situation, State Budget Crisis”

December 16, 2015

By Kent Jackson

Immigration screeners have so few tools for vetting Syrian refugees that they have resorted to asking if the refugees are terrorists, U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, R-11, said.

“Who in God’s name is going to say, ‘Yes, I’m a terrorist, but I’d like to come to the United States. Is this going to hurt me?’” Barletta said.

Speaking Tuesday to the editorial board of the Standard-Speaker, Barletta said national security advisers have told him they have no database for checking backgrounds of Syrian immigrants, and the United States can’t ask Bashar al-Assad’s government for help because they’re trying to overthrow him.

For now, Barletta thinks the United States should stop admitting Syrian refugees and develop a screening process. He also asked Gov. Tom Wolf in a letter to stop resettling Syrians in Pennsylvania.

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria or ISIS has made America its No. 1 enemy and pledged to infiltrate the refugee program, Barletta said.

A fiancée visa program allowed Syed Rizwan Farook to bring his future wife Tashfeen Malik to America a year before they shot to death 14 people and wounded 22 others at an office Christmas party in San Bernardino, California, on Dec. 2.

Malik had pledged loyalty to ISIS on her Facebook page, but no security official checked her posts, Barletta said.

From 38 nations, people can enter the United States without a visa or much screening, he said.

Moreover, Barletta said nearly half of people who come to the United States overstay their visas and authorities lose track of them. He has called for visitors to sign in and out with a fingerprint or other biometric marker at all airports and other entry points so authorities can account for them.

“When you look at all of the gaping holes in our homeland security, how anyone can tell me how they feel safer today than they did before?” Barletta said.

Barletta began noticing ties between immigration methods and national security while he was mayor of Hazleton for 11 years. He said most of the immigrants who were in Hazleton without legal status flew in from the Dominican Republic or Puerto Rico, and many obtained false identities.

“What is wrong with saying take a time out until we get a handle on who is coming to America?” he said when calling for a pause in Syrian resettlement.

Meanwhile, Barletta proposed providing safe havens for Syrians closer to their homeland by enforcing no-fly zones over them and setting up settlements with help from Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

He supports using American special forces and advisers to direct attacks on ISIS because air attacks alone won’t succeed.

Critical of President Barack Obama for not detailing a battle plan, Barletta believes that ground troops should come from a coalition of nations, not necessarily the United States.

America, he said, has been a compassionate nation, but there are “lots of people who we could help,” such as veterans sleeping on streets or schoolchildren.

He noted that Wolf released federal funds to settle refugees but hasn’t loosened federal money for Pennsylvania schools, many of which will be taking loans in January to remain open if the state budget remains unfinished.

In a letter to Barletta and other lawmakers on Nov. 17, Wolf said states don’t have the authority to refuse refugees whom the federal government admits. Many of the refugees are elderly, families and children fleeing the kinds of attacks that occurred in Paris on Nov. 13, Wolf wrote, while adding that he consulted with state police and emergency management to strengthen security.

Asked about Barletta’s comments on Tuesday, Wolf’s press secretary Jeffrey Sheridan said Barletta knows the process for settling refugees — or should know it — because of his position on the Homeland Security Committee.

The state, meanwhile, cannot release federal money for education during a budget impasse, according to the state Constitution and an act dating to the 1970s, Sheridan said.

A federal education bill that recently passed contains money, which Barletta supported, for the SHINE after-school program that children attend in Luzerne and Carbon counties.

Barletta and state Sen. John Yudichak, D-14, have favored after-school programs and other outreaches to steer children from joining criminal gangs and taking drugs.

Would the same techniques deflect Americans from answering the call that ISIS makes through social media for recruits?

“You’ve got to change the minds and lives of children,” Barletta said, adding later that government needs help to provide safety. Americans, including members of the Muslim community, he said, have an obligation to report neighbors who they notice are becoming radicalized.

Barletta is entering his sixth year in Congress and reached personal goals this year when he was named as a Transportation and Infrastructure subcommittee chairman and conference committee member for the transportation bill.

The bill covers five years, which Barletta favored so companies will have confidence to invest in new equipment and municipalities will make plans they wouldn’t enter with shorter bills.

Also, the bill bans truck tractors from pulling triple trailers and carrying heavier loads.

An article by FairWarning, a nonprofit news organization, that the Standard-Speaker published on Nov. 29 detailed money that lobbyists for the trucking industry paid to Congress while seeking support for allowing longer, heavier trucks on the roads.

Barletta, who has received $52,000 from the trucking industry, said the article might have given readers a false impression about his position.

Actually, he led the fight against triple trailers and heavier loads in Congress.

While interstate highways are built to withstand the weight, local roads aren’t, he said.

As mayor, he learned that the federal government isn’t going to repair Hazleton roads.

He also believes longer, heavier trucks pose safety problems.

“Do you want your daughter alongside a triple trailer coming down a mountain here in Pennsylvania? … I’m not willing to put my family’s safety at risk because stores want to save money on shipping,” he said.

As FairWarning reported, Barletta wants to remove safety ratings of trucking firms from the Internet until they become more accurate, because, as he told the reporter, the ratings are misleading now. Trucking companies lose points for accidents in which they aren’t at fault, and a firm that released a bad driver is penalized in the rating instead of the next firm to hire the bad driver.

Because transportation systems are vital to the safety and economy of the country, Barletta favors a dedicated funding source to pay for maintenance and improvements. His bill proposes a fee on oil companies and refineries, as Pennsylvania adopted for its highways, but he is open to other suggestions.

He also thinks Pennsylvania’s coal should have a role in the world’s energy future even as nations try to live up to the accord signed in Paris to reduce carbon emissions and limit global temperature increases.

Clean coal technology can provide energy, Barletta said. Moreover, if companies stop mining, they will stop reclaiming the land scarred by previous mining.

Plus, the carbon in anthracite, the hard coal of Hazleton and Northeastern Pennsylvania, has become a component in industrial products such as phones, filters and carbon fiber.

The coal, he said, could help draw manufacturers to the region.

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Barletta Signs Letter Urging Protection of Our Military Principles

The Hill

“Lawmakers to DOD: Reject ‘no touch’ policy sought by 9/11 plotter”

December 14, 2015

By Kristina Wong

Lawmakers in both parties are urging the Pentagon to reject a petition from five prisoners at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility asking that female service members not be allowed to touch them.

A military judge, Col. James Pohl, in January ordered a temporary “no touch” policy for female guards on the base after the detainees — including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks — said contact with female guards violated their religious beliefs.

The policy could be made permanent in the coming days, outraging lawmakers on Capitol Hill.
“We cannot allow our values to be compromised by prohibiting female soldiers, sailors, Marines, and airmen from certain assignments due to the objections of our enemies,” said a letter to Defense Secretary Ashton Carter spearheaded by Reps. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), Martha McSally (R-Ariz.), Susan Davis (D-Calif.) and Rick Larsen (D-Wash.).

“We value all that our women in uniform do and have done to keep our nation safe, and must stand by our principles in this war of ideas,” said the letter, first obtained by The Hill.

Read more here.

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Barletta Leads Effort to Stop Terrorists from Entering America

The Washington Examiner

“How Lawmakers Intend to Strip Refugee Funding from Omnibus”

December 10th, 2015

By Anna Giaritelli

A group of Republican lawmakers introduced legislation on the House floor Thursday that would cut off federal funding for refugee resettlement programs until the Obama administration meets its terms.

Reps. Marsha Blackburn and Scott DesJarlais of Tennessee, Lamar Smith of Texas and Lou Barletta of Pennsylvania said the bill is a response to President Obama’s unilateral plan to admit thousands of Syria refugees into the U.S. despite recent domestic terrorist attacks and disagreement from many in Congress.

“[Funding refugee programs] endangers our national security and costs hardworking taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars, which is why an omnibus funding bill should not include a blank check for refugee resettlement,” Blackburn said in a joint statement.

The bill would require the Congressional Budget Office to issue a congressional report on the long-term costs of resettlement operations. It also would ask the White House to submit a funding report for fiscal 2014 refugee admittances and a proposal to offset spending cuts to pay for resettling the refugees.

In addition, the Department of Homeland Security would have to identify all terrorist or criminal activity committed since 2001 by refugees.

“The attack in California demonstrated once again that there are radical Islamic terrorists whose main goal in life is to kill Americans. The people’s representatives in Congress should have a say in who is admitted, how much relocating them will cost and what security risks are associated with them,” Barletta said.

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U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta: In Syrian refugee crisis, U.S. national security must come first

By Rep. Lou Barletta

Published in the Times Leader on Dec. 5, 2015

In the wake of the terrorist attacks in Paris, Americans have been rightly focused on national security issues and their concerns that a similar disaster could occur in this country.

From the moment we learned of the carnage in France, to the point at which it was confirmed, it looked clear that the assaults were the handiwork of the Islamic State, or ISIS. Most of us have recognized that we must behave as if we are at war with these Islamic extremists, because they are most assuredly at war with us. Since protecting the citizens is the primary responsibility of the federal government, I am pleased that we in the House have taken a good first step in tightening the security of the United States.

One of the attackers in the Paris terrorist assaults is believed to have entered the European Union through Greece as a Syrian refugee. The region is overrun with people fleeing the violence in their home country, as the dictator Bashar al-Assad ruthlessly holds onto power. As a nation, the United States has a proud tradition of taking in people who have nowhere else to turn, and those who are seeking to escape oppression and tyranny. This tragic situation presents an excruciating quandary for our government, however, as we suspect that the Islamic State will attempt to use the mayhem as cover for sneaking their sympathizers into America. We suspect this, not only because it would follow their pattern of taking advantage of chaos to further their goals, but because they have told us they will do so.

“American blood is the sweetest,” ISIS has told us. “And we will taste it soon.”

While I do not like to give much credit to such inhumane, treacherous villains, I do take them at their word on this occasion. There can be no doubt that killing Americans on our own soil would be a crowning achievement for them and their growing crowd of devoted followers.

As a Congress, we were faced with the question of what to do about the refugees and the president’s pledge to take in at least 10,000 from Syria. From my seat on the Homeland Security Committee, I have had the opportunity to speak directly with some of our best and most experienced national security experts, including two from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the secretary of Homeland Security himself. They have told me that properly vetting these refugees is a difficult challenge at best and nearly impossible at worst. Syria presents a particular problem, because our national policy is to overthrow Assad, and he most certainly will not cooperate in our attempts to screen the backgrounds of people escaping his rule.

Of those experts who sat before our committee and testified about our capabilities of vetting Syrian refugees, not one was willing to say that we had all of the tools and information at our disposal. The FBI does not have an office located in Syria, and does not have enough human collectors of intelligence or reliable partners to enlist to help gather data. And while we have heard that the vigorous screening process in the refugee program might take 18 to 24 months to complete, it is obvious that no vetting can truly occur if there is no background information to sift through.

In response, the House has passed the American SAFE Act, which requires comprehensive background checks of every refugee from Iraq or Syria before they can be admitted into the United States, plus certification that each does not pose a threat. No refugee from Iraq or Syria will be admitted into the U.S. unless the FBI director, the secretary of Homeland Security, and the director of National Intelligence all certify to Congress that each refugee is not a security threat to the United States. The DHS inspector general must also independently assess the refugee approvals, thus making sure that high-risk individuals do not slip through the cracks. I am hopeful that the Senate will follow the House’s lead and pass this bill, and place it on the president’s desk.

These are not the only improvements we need to make. Our visa waiver program, which allows citizens from 38 participating countries to enter the United States as temporary visitors for 90 days, is rife with problems. Foreign nationals from these countries may enter America without having to obtain a visa or undergo an in-person interview. Coupled with the lack of a bio-metric exit program for people who do arrive on a visa, this creates another large gap in national security measures. Nearly half of the people who are illegally in this country didn’t cross a border; they arrived on a visa, the visa expired, and they never went home. As a result, any state that is home to an international airport is effectively a border state.

This is not to say that we should turn our back to those who are truly fleeing violence and oppression in Syria. For those seeking a safe haven, we should provide just that: an area within the region established by a U.S.-led coalition of nations, enforced by a rigid no-fly zone. We should also provide any support or assistance required to allow for refugees to stay in Jordan or elsewhere in the Middle East.

I commend the Jordanians for their generosity and strongly support continued federal funding for refugees overseas. These strategies would help keep refugees closer to where they want to be: home.

Make no mistake, the Islamic State is not a traditional enemy, located in a geographically identifiable state with an army that wears a recognizable uniform. It is an ideology, and it has spread to more countries than ever before. As much as we may desire to help the refugees fleeing Syria as quickly as possible, we must be absolutely certain that we know who we are admitting. Think of it this way: If I gave you a bunch of 50 grapes, and told you that two might be poisoned, how many grapes would you eat?

U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, of Hazleton, represents the 11th congressional district, which includes parts of Luzerne County and all or parts of eight other counties.

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Barletta helps to save funding for SHINE

WASHINGTON – The House today passed a conference report for education funding that U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta worked to amend to preserve federal funding for afterschool programs such as SHINE, originally slated to be eliminated before Barletta intervened, his office has announced.

SHINE, or “Schools and Homes In Education,” is a successful educational program in Carbon, Luzerne, and Schuylkill Counties that Barletta, R-Hazleton, has championed along with state Sen. John Yudichak, D-Plymouth Township.

By restoring the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) program, Barletta has preserved a funding stream that accounts for 49 percent of SHINE’s total funding, his office noted.

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