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US GOP senators vow to kill domestic terrorism bill, despite spike in hate crimes

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer heads to speak to reporters at the US Capitol on May 19, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Photo via AFP)

US Republican senators are lining up against House-passed domestic terrorism legislation, in the wake of the racist mass shooting which killed ten people in New York last week.

The House passed the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act Wednesday night to address the growing threat of white supremacists and other domestic extremist groups, just days after a gunman shot 13 people, 11 of whom are Black, at a supermarket in Buffalo.

White supremacists and hate crimes were being investigated as key motivating factors in mass shootings.

The incident prompted Democrats to push for more actions against the threat of domestic terrorism across the US.

The measure would authorize offices in the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice, and the FBI to investigate and monitor domestic terrorism.

Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer said he will bring the bill to the floor this week as a response to the recent killings.

Sen. Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin said at a press conference that the mass killing "was a tragic reminder of the threat posed by violent White supremacists and other far-right extremists."

Durbin said that he would circulate the Senate’s domestic terrorism bill among GOP colleagues in hope of winning their support.  

But the efforts have run into opposition from the Republicans.

Senate conservatives say empowering the federal offices to monitor domestic terrorism could easily morph into federal policing of political speech.

"I’m completely opposed to this idea that we would be giving the federal government and federal law enforcement power and authority to surveil Americans,"  said Sen. Josh Hawley.

Sen. Ron Johnson, a senior member of the Homeland Security Committee, said law enforcement is already supposed to be tracking domestic terrorism threats.

FBI Director Christopher Wray testified in March of last year that the threat of domestic terrorism is “metastasizing” across the country.  

Durbin said,  “We’ve seen evidence of that in so many places. Sadly we saw it in Buffalo.”

But so far, no Republicans have signed onto the bill, he added.

After the Buffalo shooting, President Joe Biden called for an end to “hate-fueled domestic terrorism.

He said, "A racially motivated hate crime is abhorrent to the very fabric of this nation.”

Since Democrats lack the support in the Senate to move forward with any sort of gun control legislation, they are instead putting their efforts into a broader federal focus on domestic terrorism.

The Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act is likely to enjoy majority support in the upper chamber, but since filibusters exist, it will almost certainly fail.

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