In response to the racist mass shooting in Buffalo, New York, the House passed a bill late Wednesday night that would increase federal resources to prevent domestic terrorism.
The virtually party-line vote, 222-203, responded to the mounting pressure on Congress to address gun violence and white nationalist attacks, a crisis that intensified after two horrific shootings over the weekend. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Illinois, a member of the congressional committee investigating the attack on the U.S. Capitol, was the only Republican to support the proposal.
However, Democratic legislative efforts are not new. In 2020, the House passed a similar bill, only to stagnate in the Senate. And since politicians lack the support in the Senate to move forward with any gun-control legislation they deem necessary to prevent mass shootings; Democrats are focusing their efforts on domestic terrorism instead.
"Congress cannot prevent the likes of (Fox News personality) Tucker Carlson from broadcasting his deadly replacement theory worldview. Congress has failed to prohibit the sale of assault weapons. The Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act is what Congress can do this week to prevent future shootings in Buffalo "Rep. Brad Schneider, D-Illinois, who proposed the bill for the first time in 2017, stated on the House floor.
The law aims to avoid another incident similar to that in Buffalo on Saturday when police say an 18-year-old white male drove three hours to engage in a racist shooting rampage in a crowded supermarket while live-streaming it on Facebook. There were ten fatalities, and all of them were Black.
According to the bill's supporters, it will close intelligence-sharing gaps between the Justice Department, Department of Homeland Security, and FBI, allowing officials to better monitor and respond to the growing threat of white supremacist terrorism.
The three federal agencies currently investigate, detect, and prosecute acts of domestic terrorism under current law. To counteract the infiltration of white supremacists into the military, the bill would require each agency to establish offices dedicated to these responsibilities and establish an interagency task force.
According to the Congressional Budget Office, the bill would cost around $105 million over five years, with most of the funds going toward staffing.
"Just as we took 9/11 seriously, we must take this matter seriously. This is a domestic variant of the same terrorism that killed innocent people in New York City and now in Buffalo and many other locations, according to Senator Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, who is introducing a similar bill.
Next week, Senate Democrats intend to put the bill up for a vote. However, its prospects are questionable, as Republicans oppose expanding the Justice Department's domestic monitoring authority.
When Attorney General Merrick Garland published a memo in October targeted at fighting threats against school officials statewide, Republican lawmakers claimed the Justice Department abused its authority to undertake additional domestic surveillance. They designated the memo as intended for worried parents.
Furthermore, Republican members argue that the plan does not emphasize combating domestic terrorism committed by far-left groups. The measure would require agencies to prepare a joint monthly report that examines and quantifies domestic terrorist threats, including those presented by white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups.
Rep. Darrell Issa, R-California, stated, "This bill blatantly disregards the persistent domestic terrorism threat posed by the radical left in this country and instead assumes it is all on the white and the right."
The disparity illustrates the persistent disagreement between Democrats and Republicans about the definition and prosecution of domestic terrorism in the United States.
Terrorism has been firmly associated with attacks by foreign actors for decades. Still, as domestic terrorism, generally perpetrated by white men, has increased over the past two decades, Democratic lawmakers have sought to clarify the term in federal statute.
"This has occurred previously in American history. Durbin stated that the only difference between modern groups and those of the past is the absence of white robes "Durbin stated. "However, the message is still the same hateful, divisive message that motivates people to commit outrageously extreme and violent acts against innocent Americans." Now is the moment to take a stand."