- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 18, 2022

The House passed a bill Wednesday that would create domestic terrorism units in the FBI, Department of Homeland Security, and Justice Department.

The bill, which passed in a party line 222-203 vote and now proceeds to the Senate, is part of the Democrats’ renewed push against domestic terrorism and racist extremism in the wake of the racist attack on a grocery store in a Black neighborhood in Buffalo.

“We must act,” said House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, New York Democrat. “The Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act, which sits before us today, is the least we can do to signal our opposition to White nationalism and this rising menace of organized intolerance.”

Until this week, the legislation, which passed the House on voice vote under the previous Congress, remained shelved indefinitely over opposition from members of the far-left “Squad” who had concerns that the federal government lacks a clear definition of what constitutes a “domestic terrorist.”

Democrats reinvigorated talks Monday, two days after the Buffalo attack that killed 10 people, after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, vowed to consider additional measures to “strengthen efforts to combat domestic terrorism.”

While Saturday’s shooting has reinvigorated lawmakers’ push to crack down on domestic terrorism, the legislation is part of a steady drumbeat in Washington since the Jan. 6, 2021, U.S. Capitol attack.

Over the summer, President Biden announced a sweeping strategy to deal with the threat, which the administration said largely “emerges from racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists and networks whose racial, ethnic, or religious hatred leads them towards violence.”

The Department of Homeland Security deemed the threat of “racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists” a “national threat priority,” and in January, the Justice Department announced the formation of a specialized unit to combat domestic terrorism, saying FBI investigations into violent extremism have more than doubled since March 2020.

While visiting Buffalo on Tuesday, Mr. Biden mourned Saturday’s violence as a “simple and straightforward” act of domestic terrorism “inflicted in the service of hate and the vicious thirst for power.”

Authorities said the accused shooter, Payton Gendron, was motivated by racial animus when he targeted shoppers at the grocery store in a predominantly Black neighborhood.

Mr. Gendron is believed to have posted a 180-page manifesto online that outlined a self-described White supremacist ideology motivating the attack, including his fears of a “complete racial and cultural replacement of the European people.”

Mr. Biden’s remarks echoed messaging from Democrats in Congress who have condemned Republicans and Fox News hosts for the spread of the “great replacement” theory, which holds that non-White people are infiltrating America to wipe out Whites and diminish their political influence.

“White supremacy is a poison … running through our body politic,” Mr. Biden said. “It’s been allowed to fester and grow right in front of our eyes.”

“We have to refuse to live in a country where fear and lies are packaged for power and for profit,” he said.

But the administration’s approach has raised concerns among Republican lawmakers, who accuse the administration of ignoring left-wing violence and leveraging fears of right-wing terrorism to target political opponents and stifle legitimate debate.

Attorney General Merrick Garland piqued fears of a burgeoning police state last year when he issued a memorandum directing federal law enforcement officials to discuss strategies “for addressing threats against” local school boards and administrators and to “open dedicated lines of communication for threat reporting, assessment and response.”

The memo was a response to a National School Boards Association letter to President Biden requesting “federal assistance to stop threats” from parents against public school officials.

“This bill is dangerous because we’ve already seen the weaponization of the government,” Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio and the top Republican on the House Judiciary committee said Wednesday.

“We saw it in the IRS a few years ago. We’ve seen it in the FBI, as I just pointed out, most recently, the DOJ working with the FBI to go after parents. This bill formalizes what we’ve already seen. That’s why it’s so dangerous.”

“What happened in Buffalo, we know is wrong as wrong can be,” he said. “But this legislation wouldn’t prevent the terrible crime that took place there.”

But after shuttling the bill through the House, Democrats in the Senate could struggle to get the measure over the 60-vote threshold to clear the upper chamber.

Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, said Wednesday that he would bring the bill to the Senate floor next week.

“We hope our Republican colleagues will understand how important this is given what going on in the country,” he said.

• Joseph Clark can be reached at jclark@washingtontimes.com.

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