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May 26, 2022, 4:07 p.m. EDT

Senate Republicans block domestic terrorism bill, gun policy debate

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By Associated Press

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Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, who has said little about gun legislation since the several tragedies have unfolded, told reporters he met with Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas earlier and encouraged senators to work together across the aisle on workable outcomes.

“I am hopeful that we could come up with a bipartisan solution that’s directly related to the facts of this awful massacre,” McConnell said.

The domestic terrorism bill that failed Thursday, meanwhile, dates back to 2017, when Rep. Brad Schneider, D-Ill., first proposed it after mass shootings in Las Vegas and Southerland Springs, Texas.

The House passed a similar measure by a voice vote in 2020, only to have it languish in the Senate. Since then, Republicans have turned against the legislation, with only one GOP lawmaker supporting passage in the House last week.

“What had broad bipartisan support two years ago, because of the political climate we find ourselves in … or to be more specific, the political climate Republicans find themselves in, we’re not able to stand up against domestic terrorism,” Schneider, who came into office in the wake of the Sandy Hook school shooting, told The Associated Press.

Republicans say the bill doesn’t place enough emphasis on combating 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.

Proponents say the bill 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.

The efforts would focus on the spread of racist ideology online like  replacement theory,  which investigators say motivated an 18-year-old white gunman to drive three hours to carry out a racist, livestreamed shooting rampage two weeks ago in a crowded supermarket in Buffalo. Or the animus against Taiwanese parishioners at a church in Laguna Woods, California, that led to the shooting death the following day of one man and the wounding of five others.

While Schneider acknowledged that his legislation may not have stopped those attacks, he said it would ensure that those federal agencies work together to better identify, predict and stop threats.

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.

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