May 26, 2022

Durbin Urges Senate to Pass his Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act

Following Buffalo shooting that killed ten Black Americans in a racist act of violence, Senate to vote on Durbin bill to help combat the serious and lethal threat of domestic terrorism

WASHINGTON  U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, spoke on the Senate floor urging Senate Republicans to join Democrats and pass his Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act (DTPA), legislation that aims to prevent and respond to domestic terrorism days after a gunman killed ten Black Americans at a Buffalo supermarket in a racist act of violence. Last year, the FBI reported that in 2020, our nation experienced the highest level of hate crimes in over a decade. Durbin first introduced the bill in 2017 with Congressman Brad Schneider (D-IL), and the House passed it with bipartisan support last week.

Durbin said, “As we mourn the mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, we have a bill coming before the Senate that responds to the mass shooting that took place in Buffalo—in which a gunman killed ten Black Americans in a racist act of violence. We will vote on my bill, the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act. It’s a measure I first introduced in 2017, and that passed the House—on a bipartisan basis—last week… Like gun safety reform, the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act is long overdue.”

Durbin first held a hearing on domestic terrorism ten years ago, after a white supremacist attacked a Sikh Gurdwara in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, and killed seven people. Since then, the number of attacks motivated by hate and white supremacy has only grown, including the 2019 shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas; the 2019 shooting at the Chabad of Poway synagogue in Poway, California; the 2018 mass shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh; and the 2015 shooting at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina.

Durbin continued, “Each of these acts of hate-fueled mass murder has torn apart a community, traumatized our nation, and left unimaginable grief and pain in their wake… Time and again, this Senate has failed to take any meaningful steps to prevent violent extremism. When exactly did stopping mass murder become a partisan issue?”

Last Congress, the House passed this legislation by voice vote. But last week, House Republican leadership decided to whip against the bill—leading to a largely party-line vote. Some Republicans now falsely claim the DTPA would lead to spying on Americans. Just like 2020—when House Republicans overwhelmingly supported the bill—the DTPA does not provide any new law enforcement or surveillance powers to the government and does not establish any new criminal offenses.

“As lawmakers, our responsibility is to enact sensible solutions that save lives, while also protecting our constitutional freedoms. That’s exactly what the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act is all about. It will improve data collection on incidents of domestic terrorism and strengthen federal coordination to combat it. That’s why it makes no sense to me that there are Republicans who oppose it… This is a modest bill with a simple goal: ensuring that the federal government devotes existing resources and authorities to what’s been identified by the FBI as the most significant domestic terrorism threats,” Durbin concluded.

The Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act authorizes domestic terrorism offices within the Department of Justice Department (DOJ), Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and requires biannual reporting on the state of domestic terrorism threats. The bill would also establish an interagency task force to combat white supremacist infiltration of the uniformed services and federal law enforcement. The bill requires reports to Congress on all domestic terrorism activity, with a breakdown by specific category.  The bill requires that white supremacist terrorism be one of these specific categories.

The legislation is supported by a variety of civil rights groups including the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Asian Americans Advancing Justice, the Arab American Institute, the NAACP, and more.

Video of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor is available here.

Audio of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor is available here.

Footage of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor is available here for TV Stations.    

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