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House Republicans balk at bill to address domestic terrorism

In theory, the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act seems like the sort of bill that would clear Congress easily. In practice, it’s a very different story.


In theory, the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act seems like the sort of measure that would clear Congress with relative ease. In practice, as we were reminded last night, it’s a very different story. NBC News reported:

The House passed legislation Wednesday night to address the growing threat of white supremacist and other domestic extremist groups after the mass shooting in Buffalo, New York. The measure passed 222-203 just days after a gunman shot 13 people, 11 of whom are Black, at a supermarket in Buffalo. An 18-year-old white man is in custody.

Reviewing the roll call, all 203 opponents of the bill came from the House Republican minority. In fact, only one member broke ranks: GOP Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois voted with the Democratic majority.

Given the scope of the Republican opposition, one might be tempted to think the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act is a wildly ambitious proposal, but it’s really not.

As a separate NBC News report explained earlier this week, the legislation would create domestic terrorism offices within the Justice Department, the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI to facilitate better coordination and help the agencies identify risks and homegrown threats.

It also would require biannual reporting about the state of domestic terrorism threats, with a particular focus on combating “white supremacist and neo-Nazi infiltration of the uniformed services.”

A New York Times report added that the bill is actually rather restrained: “[I]t would stop short of creating new federal powers to crack down on domestic terrorism; it would not create new criminal offenses or new lists of designated domestic terrorist groups, nor would it give law enforcement additional investigative powers.”

The same article added that Democrats negotiated internally “to amend the bill to assuage the concerns of progressives, narrowing the definition of domestic terrorism and adding a provision to guarantee that individuals could not be put under surveillance for the mere act of taking part in a protest.”

That was enough to ensure unanimous support among House Democrats, but it wasn’t enough to persuade House Republicans.

The Times said GOP leaders have cited concerns that the legislation “would give the Justice Department too much power.” Indeed, Republican Rep. Chip Roy of Texas argued yesterday that the bill could enable the Justice Department to “target” parents who dissent at school board meetings. (This remains a bizarre concern, based on a manufactured controversy.)

The bill now heads to the Senate, where Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced plans to bring the bill to the floor next week. It’s likely to enjoy majority support in the upper chamber, but since filibusters exist and the Senate no longer operates as a majority-rule institution, the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act will almost certainly fail.