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House approves bill to fight domestic terrorism : NPR

As police and FBI agents continue their investigation into the Tops Market shooting in Buffalo, New York, last weekend, Congress is considering legislation to combat domestic terrorism. Authorities say the attack was motivated by racial hatred.

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House approves bill to fight domestic terrorism : NPR

As police and FBI agents continue their investigation into the Tops Market shooting in Buffalo, New York, last weekend, Congress is considering legislation to combat domestic terrorism. Authorities say the attack was motivated by racial hatred.

Scott Olson/Getty Images

On Wednesday, the House of Representatives narrowly approved legislation aimed at stepping up the federal government’s efforts to combat the threat of domestic terrorism.

The vote was 222-203.

The action came days after a gunman wearing a body armor killed 10 people at a grocery store in Buffalo, NY. He was arrested and law enforcement quickly ruled it a racially motivated hate crime.

The bill, the Prevention of Domestic Terrorism Act of 2022, creates offices within the Departments of Homeland Security and Justice and the FBI that focus specifically on investigating and tracking domestic terrorist threats. It also directs these offices to share potential risks and take steps to prevent future attacks.

The legislation had bipartisan support when it was introduced earlier this year. A similar measure was approved by voice vote by the House in September 2020, just months before the January 6 uprising. But only one Republican – Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger — joined all House Democrats in approving the bill late Wednesday night.

Without a vote for gun bill, Democrats target domestic terror

Without votes to pass new gun control measures in a tightly divided Congress, House Democrats said it was worth focusing on something that shouldn’t be a partisan issue.

Rep. Brad Schneider, D-Ill., the bill’s sponsor, told NPR he pushed for a vote on the bill because it was something that garnered bipartisan support during of the last Congress.

“Last weekend we had a shooting in Buffalo. We had a shooting in California. We had a shooting in my district, a gang shooting where a 14-year-old boy was killed,” he said. -he declares. “We need to tackle what is an epidemic of gun violence in the country. We need to address the challenge of domestic extremism. And the only way to do that is to find a bipartisan way to get the ball rolling together. “

The Illinois Democrat said threats were growing and there was a need to step up efforts to find ways to prevent future incidents.

“I can’t say this law would have stopped what happened in Buffalo,” Schneider said. “What I can say is that if we give the capabilities of the FBI, the Department of Justice, the Department of Homeland Security to try to intercept these threats before they become a reality, we may stop -to be the next Buffalo or the next El Paso, the next Pittsburgh Attack.”

Republicans argue federal effort could target parents

GOP lawmakers who voted for the 2020 bill now say the Biden administration would go too far if the bill were implemented. Many argue that this would allow the Justice Department to label parents who criticize their school boards as domestic terrorists.

“The difference between two years ago and now is that the DOJ has started prosecuting concerned parents who show up at school board meetings, calling them domestic terrorists,” the Pennsylvania GOP representative said. Guy Reschenthaler, in the House, in response to the Democrats. pre-measure support.

The controversy stems from a memo released by the Department of Justice in October 2021 that directs federal law enforcement to investigate rising threats against school boards following intense community debates over the mandates for vaccines and masks.

Last fall, Attorney General Merrick Garland overturned allegations of a concerted effort to target parents. During a hearing, he told a House panel “The Department of Justice supports the right of First Amendment parents to complain as loudly as they wish,” and added, “It’s not not the subject of this note.”

Nebraska Republican Don Bacon, one of the GOP sponsors of the current bill, said conservative media attacking the bill had voters in his district worried.

“They feel like these investigations have been politicized. So basically, I’m hearing from people, are they going to investigate me because I’m pro-life? And I’m not just saying one or two. I l ‘ve heard from dozens of voters – ‘How could you be on this bill?'”

Even hours before the vote, Bacon was torn, telling NPR “I love Brad Schneider. Brad and I work well together on this stuff and I think he’s worth voting for too. So I gives on the other side – the pushback I get. But I dropped the bill for a reason and thought there was some good in it too.

The debate on the floor of the House has sometimes been tense. Bacon said he didn’t like the tone and said he thought some Democrats were suggesting some members of his party were racist.

Texas Democratic Rep. Veronica Escobar, who represents the El Paso district where a gunman in 2019 targeted Hispanic shoppers at a Walmart, killing 22 and injuring 26, urged passage of a bill to solve what she called a growing problem.

“America has a racism problem. America has a hate problem and America has a domestic terrorism problem,” she said.

Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, sent a letter to Garland last week saying he heard some parents say they were under investigation on actions related to their protests against school officials.

A Justice Department spokesperson declined to comment on the GOP lawmakers’ claims about the House legislation.

Schneider pushed back against claims of federal government overreach, saying, “This is not a new law, does not create any new laws or penalties. It empowers our federal law enforcement resources to identify growing threats from domestic terrorism like what we saw in Buffalo, and hopefully prevent these types of events in the future.”

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., told NPR on Tuesday that a partisan vote on the issue “would say the Republican Party isn’t as focused on domestic terrorism as it should be.” being so because he thinks a lot about his position”. return and standby guys may be involved.”

Senate Democrat No. 2 Dick Durbin of Illinois said he plans to introduce a bill to match the House bill and said both parties on Capitol Hill should agree that he It’s time to focus on the problem before it gets worse.

“As we took 9/11 seriously, we have to take this seriously,” he said.

Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D.N.Y., said the Senate would take a procedural vote to move the bill forward next week, but it’s unclear whether the measure has the necessary 60 votes. .


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