In a battle that was largely obscured by media coverage of the killing at Todd Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, Senate Republicans on Thursday prevented legislation to establish “domestic terrorism offices” at various federal law enforcement agencies.
New York Democrat Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer called the vote in the wake of the killings at Robb Elementary School – a mass murder that had no known connection to terrorism.
NewsMax reports Schumer previously scheduled a vote on a bill that passed the House to create domestic terrorism offices at the FBI and the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security. However, this procedural vote failed to garner the 60 votes necessary due to Republican opposition.
Schumer framed the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act as an opportunity to vote on Republican and Democratic amendments to curb gun violence, but his plea for GOP support to begin the debate fell flat with Republican colleagues.
“The problem we have is that we have a bunch of people who define anyone they disagree with as terrorists, as extremists,” said Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., according to Politico. “We’ve reached a point in America now where the term ‘extremist’ is applied too liberally to people, that there’s deep concern about how these entities will be used. … That’s the concern that people have.”
The Hill’s Alexander Bolton reported the legislation would have created an interagency task force within the Justice Department, Department of Homeland Security and the FBI to analyze and combat white supremacist infiltration in the military and federal law enforcement agencies.
Republican senators argued that new federal laws and offices are not needed to monitor and prosecute domestic terrorism because politically motivated violence is already covered by existing laws.
They also voiced concerns that the bill could open the door to improper surveillance of political groups and create a double standard for extreme groups on the right and left of the political spectrum.
And Sen. Chris Murphy, D-CT did a great job of proving Rubio’s point in his advocacy for the bill.
According to reporting by Theodore Bunker of NewsMax, Murphy described the GOP as “a party that is falling apart at the seams, if their path forward is to make it easier for white supremacists to get away with crimes in this country.”
He added, “This is a super anodyne, inoffensive, apolitical piece of legislation that just seeks to be more coordinated in taking down violent white supremacists.”
Bunker reported Murphy said, “I mean, if we can’t find consensus on fighting white supremacists, what can we find consensus on?”
Sen. Rand Paul R-KY, called the legislation an “insult” to police officers and military servicemembers.
“It would be the Democrat plan to name our police as white supremacists and neo-Nazis. I met policemen throughout Kentucky and I’ve not met one policeman motivated or consumed with any kind of racial rage,” he said.
“What an insult it is to put a bill before the House and say our Marines are consumed with white supremacy and neo-Nazism,” he added.
Seemingly not mentioned during the Senate debate were concerns voiced by career operatives at the Department of Justice, who, according to reporting by POLITICO, said their most serious concerns focus on a requirement that the FBI share details with Congress about its domestic terror probes. Sharing that information could tip off criminal groups that they’re under investigation, it warns — allowing the groups to destroy evidence and threaten witnesses. It also cautions against a provision of the bill that would have the FBI share details of its domestic terror training to Congress. That would include the names of people providing those trainings — a move that, per DOJ, “could increase the risk that they will be targeted by the very domestic terrorists they are training others to investigate.”
The Hill’s Mr. Bolton reported, the vote broke down along party lines, 47-47, with not a single Republican voting for the measure.
Domestic Terrorism Offices
Federal Law Enforcement
Texas mass shootings
Department of Justice
Department of Homeland Security
Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act