House passes domestic terrorism bill in response to Buffalo shooting

Scott Olson
·2 min read

The House passed legislation Wednesday night to address the growing threat of white supremacist and other domestic extremist groups after the mass shooting in Buffalo, New York.

The measure passed 222-203 just days after a gunman shot 13 people, 11 of whom are Black, at a supermarket in Buffalo. An 18-year-old white man is in custody.

“I and many others in this body know what it is to experience acts of racial hatred and witness events of domestic terrorism,” Majority Whip James Clyburn, D-S.C., said on the House floor Wednesday. “We cannot continue to turn a blind eye to white supremacist vigilantes. It impacts all of us. While the gunman in Buffalo was aiming for people who looked like me, others who did not look like me fell victim to this evil act.”

The Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act would create domestic terrorism offices within the Justice Department, the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI to facilitate better coordination and help the agencies identify risks and homegrown threats.

The measure, introduced by Rep. Brad Schneider, D-Ill., would direct those offices to submit a joint report twice a year detailing their findings on domestic terrorism threats.

The White House said Wednesday it supports the bill, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said the Senate would vote on it next week.

The partisan vote in the House, however, suggests a steep climb in the Senate. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois was the only House Republican to vote for the bill.

The bill’s three Republican co-sponsors — Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, Don Bacon of Nebraska and Fred Upton of Michigan — ended up not voting for it Wednesday.

Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, who opposed the legislation, argued it could enable the Justice Department to “target” parents who dissent at school board meetings.

“That is what is at stake here. That is why we’re opposing what Democrats are trying to do,” Roy said, apparently referring to Attorney General Merrick Garland’s memo last year about strategy sessions to address threats against school officials.

The House first passed the legislation by voice vote in 2020, but Republicans blocked a version of the bill that Democrats put forward in the Senate.

The bill took on new urgency this week after the Buffalo shooting, particularly as Democrats find themselves unable to pass any gun control measures over stiff GOP opposition.

FBI Director Christopher Wray and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas have repeatedly raised concerns about the threat of domestic terrorism in congressional testimony.

Mayorkas said last year that “domestic violent extremism poses the most lethal and persistent terrorism-related threat to our country today.”

Wray later said the FBI had at least 2,000 open domestic terrorism investigations, adding that the problem had been "metastasizing across the country for a long time now, and it’s not going away any time soon."