Senate GOP blocks domestic terrorism bill, gun policy debate


In this image from Senate Television, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York speaks on the floor of the Senate, Wednesday, May 25, 2022, on Capitol Hill in Washington. Schumer quickly put together a pair of gun background check bills in response to the Texas school massacre. But the Democrat on Wednesday acknowledged Congress’ years-long refusal to pass any legislation aimed at stemming a nationwide epidemic of gun violence. (Senate TV via AP)


Democrats’ first attempt to respond to back-to-back mass shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde, Texas, failed in the Senate as Republicans blocked a domestic terrorism bill that would have opened up debate on tough crime issues hate and gun safety.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D.N.Y., tried to urge Republicans to pass a domestic terrorism bill that quickly passed the House last week after mass shootings in a grocery store in Buffalo, New York, and a Southern California church targeting people of color. He said that could become the basis of the negotiation.

But Thursday’s vote faltered along party lines, raising new doubts about the possibility of a robust debate, let alone a possible compromise, on gun safety measures. The final vote was 47 to 47, short of the 60 needed to pass the bill. All Republicans voted against.

“We are disappointed,” said White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.

She said it was “shameful” that the National Rifle Association and others had blocked such action, but encouraged Congress to move forward.

“The president was very clear that it was time to act,” she said.

The bill’s rejection, just two days after the mass shooting at a Texas elementary school that killed 19 children and two teachers, underscored Congress’ continued failure to pass legislation to curb the epidemic of armed violence in the country. It also underscored the prevalence of mass shootings in the United States as Congress struggled to respond to previous shootings but faced another massacre.

Schumer said he would allow about two weeks for bipartisan negotiations in the Senate, while Congress is away for a break, to try to forge a compromise bill that could pass the Senate 50-50, where 60 votes will be needed to overcome a buccaneer.

“None of us are under any illusions it will be easy,” Schumer said ahead of the vote.

A small bipartisan group of about 10 senators who have sought to negotiate gun legislation met Thursday afternoon for the second time seeking any compromise that could be approved in Congress.

They limited themselves to three topics: background checks on guns purchased online or at gun shows, red flag laws designed to keep guns away from those who could harm themselves or others, and programs aimed at enhancing safety in schools and other buildings.

“We have a range of options that we will work on,” said Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., who is leading the negotiations. They have divided into groups and will report next week.

Murphy has been working to pass gun legislation since the 2012 attack at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, that killed 20 children and six educators. He was joined Thursday by Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, Sen. Joe Manchin, DW.Va., Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., and others. Collins, a veteran of bipartisan talks, called the meeting “constructive”.

What is clear, however, is that funding local gun safety efforts may be more politically viable than crafting new federal policies.

GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina left the meeting saying there is no appetite for a federal red flag law or a so-called yellow flag law – which allows forfeiture temporary firearms of people in danger of harming themselves or others if a doctor goes offline.

But Graham said there might be value in providing money to states that already have red flag laws or want to expand them. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., who circulated a draft at the meeting, will work with Graham on a potential compromise.

“These laws save lives,” Blumenthal said.

Toomey told reporters that the Manchin-Toomey background check bill – which failed in the wake of the Sandy Hook school shooting a decade ago – still lacks enough support. Manchin said he hoped this time would be different.

“I can’t get my grandchildren out of my head. It could have been them,” Manchin said.

Neither lawmaker could say for sure whether any of the efforts will be able to win over all Democrats and get the 10 Republican senators it needs to get past the GOP-led filibuster.

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

“I hope we can find a bipartisan solution directly related to the facts of this horrific massacre,” McConnell said.

The domestic terrorism bill that failed Thursday 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 voice vote in 2020, only to languish in the Senate. Since then, Republicans have backfired on the legislation, with only one GOP lawmaker backing its passage through the House last week.

“What had broad bipartisan support two years ago, because of the political climate that we find ourselves in … or to be more specific, the political climate that Republicans find themselves in, we are not in a position to oppose domestic terrorism,” Schneider said. , who took office following the Sandy Hook school shooting, told The Associated Press.

Republicans say the bill does not place enough emphasis on combating domestic terrorism committed by far-left groups. Under the bill, the agencies would be required to produce a joint report every six months that assesses and quantifies domestic terrorism threats nationwide, including threats posed by white supremacists and neo-Nazi groups.

Proponents say the bill will close gaps in intelligence sharing between the Justice Department, Department of Homeland Security and FBI so officials can better track and respond to the growing threat of white extremist terrorism.

Efforts reportedly focus on spreading racist ideology online like the replacement theory, which investigators say motivated an 18-year-old white shooter to drive three hours to carry out a racist shooting and broadcast live there. two weeks in a crowded supermarket in Buffalo. Or the animosity against Taiwanese parishioners at a church in Laguna Woods, California, that resulted in the shooting death the next day of one man and the wounding of five others.

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

Under current law, the three federal agencies are already working to investigate, prevent and prosecute acts of domestic terrorism. But the bill would require each agency to open offices specifically dedicated to these tasks and create an interagency task force to combat white supremacist infiltration in the military.


Associated Press writers Darlene Superville, Alan Fram and Mary Clare Jalonick contributed to this report.


This story has been corrected to show that Senator Collins’ vote was incorrectly announced in the Senate chamber as a yes vote. All Republicans voted against the measure.


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