U.S. Senate Republicans on Thursday blocked attempts by Democratic lawmakers to start debate on a measure to combat domestic terrorism as the two parties spar over how best to control gun violence.
The Democratic-controlled House of Representatives approved the measure last week following a mass shooting earlier this month at a grocery store in Buffalo, New York, in which a white teenage gunman is accused of specifically targeting and killing 10 Black people.
Democrats' attempt to start debate on the domestic terrorism measure, coming two days after a teenage gunman killed 19 children and two teachers at an elementary school in Texas, failed on a 47-47 vote, far short of the 60 needed to overcome a Republican filibuster.
Democrats, who have failed for years to overcome Republican opposition to tighter controls on gun sales and background checks on gun buyers, are making another effort to compromise with Republicans on gun control legislation in the aftermath of the Texas rampage carried out by an 18-year-old high school dropout.
There was no indication that Republican senators were willing to abandon their opposition, with many of them saying that the gun-buying rights of law-abiding citizens would be impinged upon if background checks were initiated.
Republicans say the domestic terrorism bill doesn't place enough emphasis on combating offenses committed by groups on the far left.
New federal offices
The legislation would have set up offices at the FBI and at the Homeland Security and Justice departments to focus on domestic terrorism.
Democratic supporters of the legislation said the offices would better prepare the federal government to take preventive measures against domestic terrorism. Some Republicans said the government already has the authority to track such activity, making the new legislation unnecessary.
"The problem we have is that we have a bunch of people who define anyone they disagree with as terrorists, as extremists," said Republican Senator Marco Rubio, according to Politico. "We've reached a point in America now where the term 'extremist' is applied too liberally to people, that there's deep concern about how these entities will be used. … That's the concern that people have.
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said that for some Republicans, "no amount of gun violence — whether it's domestic terrorism, a school shooting, a neighborhood shooting or something else— will ever, ever convince them to take any action." (AA/VOA)