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Senate panel OKs call for “use of military force” against ISIL

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Florida lawmakers continued to dabble in foreign policy on Monday, when the Senate panel unanimously passed a bill calling for an authorization of force against Al-Qaeda and Islamic State groups in Iraq and the Levant.

The Committee on Military and Veterans Affairs, Space, and Domestic Security approved SB 1710 by Sen. Greg Evers, which calls on Congress for the “authorization for the use of military force” against the groups.

The bill originally called on federal lawmakers to “declare that a state of war exists” between the U.S. and Islamic terrorists, but was amended to read as above, a difference Evers characterized as “tomayto, tomahto.”

Evers said the impetus for the bill was an increased threat of Islamic terrorism reaching Florida shores.

“Ultimately, it’s moving closer to us,” said Evers, adding that the U.S. should dedicate more resources to the fight, though it is unclear whether a legislative memorial could help accomplish that.

Evers, a Baker Republican, added that to American soldiers currently fighting the groups overseas, “it is war,” whether Congress declares it or not.

After the bill’s passage, Chairman Sen. Thad Altman told the panel Monday’s hearing would likely be the last of the 2016 Legislative Session.

The move now moves to the Senate Rules Committee, its final stop before the floor. A House companion bill – HB 1319 by Rep. Larry Ahern – now awaits a vote by the full chamber.

Greg Pound, a perennial Capitol testifier, offered up an antisemitic and anti-Islamic diatribe in support of the bill. He suggested that God is “using” Islamic terrorism to punish America for its moral lapses, including abortion.

“It’s time our political leadership in Washington started taking the threat of these Islamist radicals seriously,” said Brian Burgess, spokesman for the Better Florida Alliance on the occasion of the bill’s passage.

Ryan Ray writes about campaigns and public policy in Tampa Bay and across the state. A contributor to FloridaPolitics.com and before that, The Florida Squeeze, he covers the Legislature as a member of the Florida Capitol Press Corps and has worked as a staffer on several campaigns. He can be reached at ryan@floridapolitics.com.

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