The House on Wednesday approved a bill that would create domestic terrorism units in the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and the Justice Department.
The bill, which passed on a party-line vote of 222-203 and now proceeds to the Senate, is part of Democrats’ renewed push against domestic terrorism and racist extremism following the racist attack at a grocery store. groceries in a black neighborhood in Buffalo.
“We must act,” said House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, a Democrat from New York. “The Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act, before us today, is the least we can do to signal our opposition to white nationalism and this growing threat of organized bigotry.”
Until this week, the legislation, which passed the House by voice vote in the previous Congress, remained shelved indefinitely due to opposition from members of the far-left “Squad” who had concerns that the federal government lacks a definition clear of what constitutes a “squad”. domestic terrorist.
Democrats reinvigorated talks Monday, two days after the attack in Buffalo that killed 10 people, after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., promised to consider additional measures to “strengthen efforts to combat domestic terrorism”.
While Saturday’s shooting reinvigorated lawmakers’ push to crack down on domestic terrorism, the legislation is part of an ongoing drumbeat in Washington since the attack on the US Capitol on January 6, 2021.
Over the summer, President Biden announced a sweeping strategy to deal with the threat, which the administration says largely “arises from racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists and networks whose racial, ethnic, or religious hatred leads them to the violence”.
The Department of Homeland Security considered the threat of “racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists” a “national threat priority,” and in January, the Justice Department announced the formation of a specialized unit to combat domestic terrorism, saying that FBI investigations into violent extremism have ended. more than double since March 2020.
While visiting Buffalo on Tuesday, Biden lamented Saturday’s violence as a “simple and direct” act of domestic terrorism “inflicted in the service of hatred and a fierce thirst for power.”
Authorities said the accused shooter, Payton Gendron, was motivated by racial animosity when he targeted shoppers at the grocery store in a predominantly black neighborhood.
Mr. Gendron is believed to have posted a 180-page manifesto online outlining a self-described white supremacist ideology motivating the attack, including his fears of a “complete racial and cultural replacement of the European people.”
Biden’s comments echoed messages from Democrats in Congress who condemned Republicans and Fox News hosts for spreading the “great replacement” theory, which holds that non-white people are becoming infiltrating the United States to eliminate whites and diminish their political influence.
“White supremacy is a poison … that runs through our body politic,” Biden said. “It has been allowed to rot and grow right before our eyes.”
“We have to refuse to live in a country where fear and lies are packaged for power and profit,” he said.
But the administration’s approach has raised concerns among Republican lawmakers, who accuse the administration of ignoring violence from the left and harnessing fears of terrorism from the right to attack political opponents and stifle legitimate debate.
Attorney General Merrick Garland sparked fears of a burgeoning police state last year when he issued a memo directing federal law enforcement officials to discuss strategies “to address threats against” local school boards and administrators. and “open dedicated lines of communication to report and assess threats.” and answer.”
The memo was a response to a letter from the National Association of School Boards to President Biden requesting “federal assistance in stopping threats” by parents against public school officials.
“This bill is dangerous because we’ve already seen the use of government weapons,” Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio and the top Republican on the House judiciary committee said Wednesday.
“We saw it at the IRS a few years ago. We’ve seen it in the FBI, as I just pointed out, more recently, the Justice Department working with the FBI to go after parents. This bill formalizes what we have already seen. That’s why it’s so dangerous.”
“What happened in Buffalo, we know it’s as bad as it gets,” he said. “But this legislation would not prevent the terrible crime that took place there.”
But after sending the bill through the House, Democrats in the Senate could have a hard time getting the measure past the 60-vote threshold to clear the upper house.
Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, a Democrat from New York, said Wednesday that he would bring the bill to the Senate floor next week.
“We hope that our Republican colleagues understand the importance of this given what is happening in the country,” he said.