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House, Acting After Buffalo Rampage, Moves to Combat Domestic Terrorism

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WASHINGTON — The House passed laws on Wednesday aimed toward bulking up the federal government’s efforts to combat domestic terrorism, acting over the opposition of Republicans days after a gunman motivated by white supremacist ideology killed 10 Black people in a Buffalo supermarket.

Lawmakers advanced the bipartisan laws on an almost party-line vote of 222 to 203 that reflected deep polarization about addressing white supremacy and other racially motivated extremism that’s now considered the nation’s biggest internal threat.

The vote got here because the Buffalo massacre has shone a highlight on how racist conspiracy theories comparable to the one which motivated the shooter have increasingly drifted into Republican politics and right-wing media, where outstanding voices, including some members of Congress, have subtly echoed or overtly embraced them. Just one Republican, Representative Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, voted for the bill.

The measure would establish three recent offices — one each within the F.B.I., the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security — to watch, investigate and prosecute domestic terrorism. It will require biannual reports assessing the domestic terrorism threat posed by white supremacists, with a selected give attention to combating “white supremacist and neo-Nazi infiltration of the uniformed services.”

Yet it could stop in need of creating recent federal powers to crack down on domestic terrorism; it could not create recent criminal offenses or recent lists of designated domestic terrorist groups, nor wouldn’t it give law enforcement additional investigative powers.

Commentary from Times Opinion on the massacre at a food market in a predominantly Black neighborhood in Buffalo.

Proponents said that in a Congress that has long been paralyzed on laws to combat gun violence, the bill was the perfect they might to deal with the foundation causes of the racist shooting rampage in Buffalo.

“The rise of racially motivated extremism is a serious threat to Americans across the country,” said Representative Brad Schneider, Democrat of Illinois and the lead sponsor of the bill. “We will’t stop the likes of Tucker Carlson from spewing hateful, dangerous, alternative theory ideology across the airwaves. Congress hasn’t been capable of ban the sale of assault weapons. The Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act is what Congress can do to assist prevent future Buffalo shootings.”

Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of Recent York and the bulk leader, said he would attempt to bring up the laws within the Senate next week. But Republicans are expected to dam it, citing concerns that it could give the Justice Department an excessive amount of power. House Republican leaders really helpful on Wednesday that their members oppose it.

“This laws expands the federal bureaucracy, it ignores recent and evolving terrorist threats, and it makes it harder for law enforcement to recruit and retain qualified candidates,” said Representative Guy Reschenthaler, Republican of Pennsylvania.

Originally introduced in 2017, the bill passed the House unanimously in 2020 only to stall within the Senate. It faced headwinds earlier this 12 months after progressive Democrats in Congress, led by Representative Cori Bush of Missouri, said they’d oppose the bill, citing concerns from groups including the American Civil Liberties Union and the Council on American-Islamic Relations that it could increase surveillance of individuals of color, especially activists.

The A.C.L.U. opposed an earlier version of the laws, stating in a 2019 letter that it could “entrench longstanding problems, and end in the further unjustified and discriminatory surveillance, investigation, and prosecution of individuals of color and other marginalized communities, including those engaged in First Amendment protected activities.”

However the measure has picked up momentum since Saturday, when an 18-year-old white gunman opened fire on the Tops supermarket in East Buffalo, authorities said, in a premeditated effort to kill Black people, driven by the idea that white Americans were vulnerable to being replaced by people of color.

Democrats negotiated internally to amend the bill to assuage the concerns of progressives, narrowing the definition of domestic terrorism and adding a provision to ensure that individuals couldn’t be put under surveillance for the mere act of collaborating in a protest.

Attorney General Merrick B. Garland and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas testified before Congress last 12 months that the best domestic threat facing america got here from what they called “racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists.”

In a separate warning last 12 months, the Department of Homeland Security said publicly for the primary time that america faced a growing threat from “violent domestic extremists” emboldened by the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

Senate sponsors of laws framed the bill last 12 months as a option to reply to the assault on Congress.

“After the violence of the Capitol riots, it’s time to fight domestic terrorism,” Senator Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, wrote in an op-ed promoting the laws.

But with the Buffalo killings fresh within the nation’s consciousness, congressional Democrats have pivoted to portray the laws as a response to the spate of racist shootings across the country. They’ve cited the attack on the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, the Atlanta shootings that targeted women working at Asian spas, and the 2019 shooting in El Paso, by which authorities say a white gunman killed 23 people at a Walmart, claiming he was carrying out the attack in “response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas.”

“The longer we wait in getting the resources and tools to the F.B.I., D.O.J. and D.H.S.,” Mr. Schneider said, “the more likely we’re to have more events like in Buffalo.”

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