House Passes Domestic Terrorism Bill After Buffalo Shooting

On Wednesday night, the House passed the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act, legislation that would bolster federal resources to prevent domestic terrorism in response to the racist mass shooting in Buffalo, New York.

The 222-203, nearly party-line vote was an answer to the growing pressure Congress faces to address gun violence and white supremacist attacks – a crisis that escalated following two mass shootings over the weekend.

Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., a member of the House Select committee investigating the attack on the U.S. Capitol, was the lone Republican to vote in favor of the measure.

The bill would create an office of domestic terrorism in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Department of Justice (DOJ), and FBI. It will now head to the Senate, where its fate is uncertain.

The House passed a similar bill in 2020, only to see it stalled in the Senate.

“We in Congress can’t stop the likes of (Fox News host) Tucker Carlson from spewing hateful, dangerous replacement theory ideology across the airwaves. Congress hasn’t been able to ban the sale of assault weapons. The Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act is what Congress can do this week to try to prevent future Buffalo shootings,” Rep. Brad Schneider, D-Ill., who first introduced the measure in 2017, said on the House floor Wednesday.

The intent of the legislation is to better equip the agencies and enable them to work together to effectively identify risks and successfully thwart domestic terror threats. The bill does not create new criminal offenses, new lists of designated domestic terrorist individuals or groups, or new investigative powers for law enforcement. Rather, it better equips agencies to handle this identified threat and thwart it.

“As we took 911 seriously, we need to take this seriously. This is a domestic form of the same terrorism that killed the innocent people of New York City and now this assault in Buffalo and many other places,” Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin, who is sponsoring an identical bill in the Senate, said Wednesday. “The only thing missing between these organizations in the past are the white robes.”

GOP lawmakers also say the bill doesn’t place enough emphasis on combatting domestic terrorism committed by groups on the far left.

“This bill glaringly ignores the persistent domestic terrorism threat from the radical left in this country and instead makes the assumption that it is all on the white and the right,” said Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif.

First introduced in 2017, the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act received broad, bipartisan support, passing the House on a voice vote on September 21st, 2020.  Schneider reintroduced the bill in the House on January 19th, 2021 with 3 Democratic and 3 Republican cosponsors and passed out of the Judiciary committee April 6th, 2022, by a 21 to 17 vote.

 

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