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House Passes Domestic Terrorism Bill   05/19 06:07

   The House passed legislation late Wednesday night that would bolster federal 
resources to prevent domestic terrorism in response to the racist mass shooting 
in Buffalo, New York.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- The House passed legislation late Wednesday night 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 congressional committee investigating the 
attack on the U.S. Capitol, was the lone Republican to vote in favor of the 
measure.

   But the legislative effort by Democrats is not new. The House passed a 
similar measure in 2020 only to have it languish in the Senate. And since 
lawmakers lack the support in the Senate to move forward with any sort of 
gun-control legislation they see as necessary to stop mass shootings, Democrats 
are instead putting their efforts into a broader federal focus on domestic 
terrorism.

   "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.

   Replacement theory is a racist ideology that alleges white people and their 
influence are being intentionally "replaced" by people of color through 
immigration and higher birth rates. It's being investigated as a motivating 
factor in Saturday's supermarket shooting that killed 10 people in Buffalo, New 
York, all of them Black. Police say an 18-year-old white man drove three hours 
to carry out a racist, livestreamed shooting rampage in a crowded supermarket.

   Supporters of the House bill say it will fill the gaps in 
intelligence-sharing among the Justice Department, Department of Homeland 
Security and the FBI so that officials can better track and respond to the 
growing threat of white extremist terrorism.

   Under current law, the three federal agencies already work to investigate, 
prevent and prosecute acts of domestic terrorism. But the bill would require 
each agency to open offices specifically dedicated to those tasks and create an 
interagency task force to combat the infiltration of white supremacy in the 
military.

   The Congressional Budget Office estimates the bill would cost about $105 
million over five years, with most of the money going toward hiring staff.

   "As we took 9/11 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," said Sen. Dick 
Durbin, D-Ill., who is sponsoring an identical bill in the Senate.

   Senate Democrats are pledging to bring up the bill for a vote next week. But 
its prospects are uncertain, with Republicans opposed to bolstering the power 
of the Justice Department in domestic surveillance.

   Republican lawmakers assert that the Justice Department abused its power to 
conduct more domestic surveillance when Attorney General Merrick Garland issued 
a memo in October aimed at combating threats against school officials 
nationwide. They labeled the memo as targeting concerned parents.

   GOP lawmakers also say the bill doesn't place enough emphasis on combatting 
domestic terrorism committed by groups on the far left. Under the bill, 
agencies would be required to produce a joint report every six months that 
assesses and quantifies domestic terrorism threats nationally, including 
threats posed by white supremacists and neo-Nazi groups.

   "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.

   The divergence highlights the stubborn gap between Democrats and Republicans 
over domestic terrorism in the U.S. and how it should be defined and prosecuted.

   For decades, terrorism has been consistently tied with attacks from foreign 
actors, but as homegrown terrorism, often perpetrated by white men, has 
flourished over the past two decades, Democratic lawmakers have sought to 
clarify it in federal statute.

   "We've seen it before in American history. The only thing missing between 
these organizations and the past are the white robes," Durbin said. "But the 
message is still the same hateful, divisive message, that sets off people to do 
outrageously extreme things, and violent things, to innocent people across 
America. It's time for us to take a stand."

 
 
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