Sen. GOP Blocks Terror Bill, Gun Debate05/27 06:04
Democrats' first attempt at responding to the back-to-back mass shootings in
Buffalo, New York, and Uvalde, Texas, failed in the Senate as Republicans
blocked a domestic terrorism bill that would have opened debate on difficult
questions surrounding hate crimes and gun safety.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Democrats' first attempt at responding to the
back-to-back mass shootings in Buffalo, New York, and Uvalde, Texas, failed in
the Senate as Republicans blocked a domestic terrorism bill that would have
opened debate on difficult questions surrounding hate crimes and gun safety.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., tried to nudge Republicans
into taking up a domestic terrorism bill that had cleared the House quickly
last week after mass shootings at a grocery store in Buffalo and a church in
Southern California targeting people of color. He said it could become the
basis for negotiation.
But the Thursday vote failed along party lines, raising fresh doubts about
the possibility of robust debate, let alone eventual compromise, on gun safety
measures. The final vote was 47-47, short of the 60 needed to take up the bill.
All Republicans voted against it.
"We're disappointed," said White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.
She said it's "shameful" that the National Rifle Association and others have
stood in the way of advancing such measures but encouraged Congress to press
"The president has been very clear that's it's time to act," she said.
Rejection of the bill, just two days after the mass shooting at a Texas
elementary school that killed 19 children and two teachers, brought into sharp
relief Congress' persistent failure to pass legislation to curb the nation's
epidemic of gun violence. It also underscored the prevalence of mass shootings
in the U.S. as Congress struggled to react to earlier shootings but was
confronted by yet another massacre.
Schumer said he will give bipartisan negotiations in the Senate about two
weeks, while Congress is away for a break, to try to forge a compromise bill
that could pass the 50-50 Senate, where 60 votes will be needed to overcome a
"None of us are under any illusions this will be easy," Schumer said ahead
of the vote.
A small, bipartisan group of about 10 senators who have sought to negotiate
legislation on guns met Thursday afternoon for the second time searching for
any compromise that could win approved in Congress.
They narrowed to three topics -- background checks for 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 to bolster security at schools and
"We have a range of options that we're going to work on," said Sen. Chris
Murphy, D-Conn., who is leading the negotiations. They broke into groups and
will report next week.
Murphy has been working to push 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, D-W.Va., Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., and others. Collins, a veteran of
bipartisan talks, called the meeting "constructive."
What is clear, however, is that providing funding for local gun safety
efforts may be more politically viable than devising new federal policies.
GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina exited the meeting saying there is
no appetite for a federal red flag law or a so-called yellow flag law -- which
permits temporary firearm confiscation from people in danger of hurting
themselves or others, if a medical practitioner signs off.
But Graham said there could be interest in providing money to the states
that already have red flag laws or that want to develop 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 aftermath of the Sandy Hook school shooting a decade ago -- still
does not have enough support. Manchin said he hoped this time would be
"I can't get my grandchildren out of my mind. It could have been them,"
None of the lawmakers could say definitively if any of the efforts will be
able to win all Democrats and have the 10 Republican senators it needs to
advance past a GOP-led filibuster.
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, who has said little about gun
legislation since the several tragedies have unfolded, told reporters he met
with Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas earlier and encouraged senators to
collaborate across the aisle on workable outcomes.
"I am hopeful that we could come up with a bipartisan solution that's
directly related to the facts of this awful 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 a voice vote in 2020, only to have it
languish in the Senate. Since then, Republicans have turned against the
legislation, with only one GOP lawmaker supporting passage in the House last
"What had broad bipartisan support two years ago, because of the political
climate we find ourselves in ... or to be more specific, the political climate
Republicans find themselves in, we're not able to stand up against domestic
terrorism," Schneider, who came into office in the wake of the Sandy Hook
school shooting, told The Associated Press.
Republicans say the bill doesn't place enough emphasis on combating domestic
terrorism committed by groups on the far left. Under the bill, agencies would
be required to produce a joint report every six months that assesses and
quantifies domestic terrorism threats nationally, including threats posed by
white supremacists and neo-Nazi groups.
Proponents say the bill will fill the gaps in intelligence-sharing among the
Justice Department, the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI so that
officials can better track and respond to the growing threat of white extremist
The efforts would focus on the spread of racist ideology online like the
baseless "great replacement" conspiracy theory, which investigators say
motivated an 18-year-old white gunman to drive three hours to carry out a
racist, livestreamed shooting rampage two weeks ago in a crowded supermarket in
Buffalo. Or the animus against Taiwanese parishioners at a church in Laguna
Woods, California, that led to the shooting death the following day of one man
and the wounding of five others.
While Schneider acknowledged that his legislation may not have stopped those
attacks, he said it would ensure that those federal agencies work together to
better identify, predict and stop threats.
Under current law, the three federal agencies already work to investigate,
prevent and prosecute acts of domestic terrorism. But the bill would require
each agency to open offices specifically dedicated to those tasks and create an
interagency task force to combat the infiltration of white supremacy in the