Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday thwarted Republican efforts to label left-wing groups such as antifa as domestic terrorists in a bill aimed at bolstering the Justice Department’s response to the white supremacy threat.
The bill now heads to the House floor for a vote by the full chamber.
The legislation would establish domestic terrorism offices within the Homeland Security and Justice departments as well as the FBI to monitor, prosecute and investigate cases of domestic terrorism. Each office would be required to issue a biannual report to Congress assessing domestic terrorism threats with a specific focus on white supremacists.
“These are reasonable, measured policies to help focus the federal government’s resources on the threats that continue to terrorize and kill Americans,” said Committee Chairman Jerold Nadler, New York Democrat.
Republicans countered that the bill ignores politically motivated violence initiated by leftist activist groups targeting conservatives. They countered that such groups are as big of a threat as white supremacy.
Rep. Ken Buck, Colorado Republican, proposed an amendment that would fold the far-left organizations under the domestic terrorism umbrella. His amendment detailed more than 88 incidents of violent acts perpetrated by leftist groups.
“What we are overlooking in this bill is that it is one-sided,” Mr. Buck said. “There is at least an equal level of hate, violence and terror coming from the political left directed at conservatives and people who support the president. At its core, the people perpetrating these acts are using the same tactics as white supremacists.”
Mr. Buck said support for his amendment would influence whether or not he would support the legislation on the House floor. He warned his colleagues that the Republican-controlled Senate would not support the domestic terrorism bill without his amendment.
“This bill goes nowhere,” Mr. Buck said. “It will get very few if any Republican votes and it will go nowhere in the Senate. If we are serious about attacking about white supremacism, which I absolutely want to do — and did as a prosecutor — let’s make this a bipartisan bill.”
Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, Wisconsin Republican, agreed, noting the 2017 attack on Republican lawmakers that left Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana seriously wounded. The gunman who carried out the massacre had a clear hatred for Republicans, the investigation revealed.
“Political terrorism is domestic terrorism,” he said. “Political terrorism should be investigated just as vigorously as white supremacy, which both sides condemn.”
But Democrats countered that politically motivated violence was not the same level as white supremacist terrorism.
“[This amendment] blurs the lines between the targeted attacks the likes of which my community has seen and saying violence is violence. It diminishes the suffering that generations of Americans have lived through,” said Rep. Veronica Escobar, Texas Democrat, adding that she has been the victim of death threats.
Mr. Buck’s amendment was defeated in a vote along party lines.
The FBI made about 100 domestic terrorism-related arrests between October 2018 and June 2019, with most tied to white supremacy, Director Christopher Wray told Congress.
The FBI is estimated to have roughly 900 open domestic terrorism investigations.