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US Republican senators block domestic terrorism bill, despite a spike in hate crimes

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
US Senator John Thune (R-SD) speaks to reporters following the Senate Republicans' weekly policy lunch at the US Capitol in Washington, May 3, 2022. (Reuters photo)

US Republican senators have blocked legislation titled the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act in Congress in the wake of the racist mass shooting which killed ten Black people in New York this month.

US senators on Thursday voted 47-47 along party lines to reject the legislation authorizing federal agencies to monitor and report jointly on domestic terrorism within the United States, including incidents related to white supremacy. The bill fell short of the 60 senators required to launch the debate.

The legislation came two days after a gunman shot dead 19 young children and two teachers at an elementary school in the US state of Texas, in the deadliest US school shooting since the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting in Connecticut, in which 20 children and six staff were killed. Seventeen people were also injured in the shooting.

Republicans said the bill was unnecessary as Democratic President Joe Biden already had the authority to organize his administration's response to violent domestic extremism, according to Reuters.

Democrats insisted the legislation was needed to boost the Biden administration's response to rising incidents of violent extremism in the US.

The House passed the bill on Wednesday night to address the growing threat of white supremacists and other domestic extremist groups, just days after a gunman shot dead 10 Black people at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York.

White supremacists and hate crimes were being investigated as key motivating factors in mass shootings.

The incident prompted Democrats to push for more actions against the threat of domestic terrorism across the US.

The measure would have authorized offices in the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice, and the FBI to investigate and monitor domestic terrorism.

Following the Tuesday shooting in Texas, US President Joe Biden denounced the US gun lobby and vowed to end the nation's cycle of mass shootings.

"It's time to turn this pain into action for every parent, for every citizen of this country," Biden said.

"It's time for those who obstruct or delay or block commonsense gun laws -- we need to let you know that we will not forget," he said. "As a nation, we have to ask when in God's name are we going to stand up to the gun lobby."

More than 3,000 children and teens have been shot and killed and 15,000 more have been shot and injured since Sandy Hook, according to data from Everytown for Gun Safety, which tracks gun violence and other shootings on school grounds.

The Sandy Hook school shooting occurred on December 14, 2012, in Newtown, Connecticut, when 20-year-old Adam Lanza fatally shot 20 children between six and seven years old, as well as six adult staff members, before killing himself. Prior to driving to the school, Lanza shot and killed his mother at their home.

Although the Sandy Hook massacre was the third-deadliest mass shooting in US history, Congress has consistently failed to pass federal gun control legislation due to the influence of the powerful gun lobby.

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