Congress

House Democrats to visit cities roiled by white supremacist violence

The ‘action plan’ could be aimed at quieting concerns that lawmakers will lose momentum over the August recess

Rep. Nanette Barragan, D-Calif., serves on the House Homeland Security Committee. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Democrats on the House Homeland Security Committee will visit cities roiled by violence in the coming month “to address the threat of domestic terrorism” by white supremacists and neo-Nazis.

Chairman Bennie Thompson laid out the plan in a media release sent Tuesday night. The release comes amid a push from some Democrats to cut the August recess short and convene a session of Congress on the matter.

The “action plan” could be aimed at quieting concerns among lawmakers that momentum to put forth new legislation addressing white supremacist violence and curbing access to guns, currently gaining support from some Republicans, could be lost if Congress does not return until September. 

A spokesman for the committee did not immediately respond to questions about which places it plans to visit. 

The urgency for action in Congress comes in the aftermath of a mass shooting in El Paso that could  rank as one of the deadliest hate crime against Latinos in U.S. history.

The Justice Department is investigating the crime as it would a “domestic terrorism” case.

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But the tragedy has resurfaced concerns about how U.S. law prosecutes violence connected to foreign actors such as ISIS more severely than violence connected to white supremacists, and how manpower and funds allocated to combating right-wing extremism and white supremacist violence have dwindled under Trump's Department of Homeland Security. 

At least 48 Democrats want to return to the Capitol to take up legislation that would address these concerns, VICE News reported

“We should take the threat posed by white supremacist terrorists as seriously as we rightly take the threat posed by terrorists groups based outside the United States,” they wrote in a letter addressed to Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell

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In addition to the site visits, Thompson announced Tuesday that he had sent a letter to Jim Watkins, the owner of 8chan, the platform where mass shooters have reportedly amplified their hateful ideology in advance of their attacks. The letter asks that Watkins come and testify before the committee.

“Regrettably, this is the third act of white supremacist violence linked to your website this last year,” Thompson wrote along with ranking member GOP Rep. Mike Rogers

Thompson also issued a letter Tuesday to director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Christopher Wray asking the agency to brief the committee on a monthly basis. 

The chairman from Mississippi also will join Acting DHS Secretary Kevin McAleenan in his home state to launch the new House Subcommittee for the Prevention of Targeted Violence Against Faith-Based Communities on August 13th. 

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