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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 
ahead.

   "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 
filibuster.

   "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 
other buildings.

   "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 
different.

   "I can't get my grandchildren out of my mind. It could have been them," 
Manchin said.

   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 
week.

   "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 
terrorism.

   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 
military.

 
 
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