WASHINGTON — Senate Republicans blocked the chamber from proceeding to a House-passed domestic terrorism bill that advanced earlier this month after 10 people were killed and three others were wounded in Buffalo, New York, in a shooting officials described as racially motivated.
The Democrats' push to take up the bill failed in a 47-47 vote, short of the 60 votes needed to overcome a Republican filibuster. It came after yet another mass shooting, at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, on Tuesday, in which 19 children and two teachers died — the worst school shooting in a decade.
The broad Republican opposition to the bill, which Democrats tied to the issue of guns, highlighted the challenges the sharply divided Congress faces in advancing measures related to gun control.
The Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act would require federal law enforcement agencies to regularly evaluate and take steps to address the threats posed by white supremacists and other violent domestic extremists. The House passed the legislation last week in a 222-203 vote largely along party lines, with Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., joining all Democrats in support of the bill.
House passage came just days after a gunman shot 13 people, 11 of whom were Black, at a supermarket in Buffalo. An 18-year-old white man has been indicted on first-degree murder charges; he has pleaded not guilty.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., offered Wednesday to allow votes on GOP-sponsored gun amendments in a bid to garner support for the measure.
"If Republicans can vote with us to get on that bill, we can have a debate on considering commonsense, strong gun safety amendments, hopefully with bipartisan support," he said on the Senate floor.
Schumer said that he was objecting to advancing a separate bill sponsored by Ron Johnson, R-Wis. — which Johnson’s office said would create "a clearinghouse of information for the best school safety practices" — but that he would instead allow amendments like it to be voted on if Republicans agreed to advance to the domestic terrorism bill.
Schumer's strategy did not sway Republicans, who said the bill is not needed because federal agencies already have the authority to go after terrorists and expressed concerns that the measure could be misused.
“But the problem we have now is we have people in American politics and American government who label anyone they don’t like as an extremist, and that turns into a political weapon,” said Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.