Congress needs to pass a bill that strengthens efforts against domestic terrorism
© Getty Images

White supremacist violence is the most serious domestic terrorism threat in the United States. And the Trump administration is not doing nearly enough to confront it.

On Aug. 3, we witnessed another devastating incident of domestic terrorism committed by a white supremacist in El Paso. The alleged shooter was filled with animus towards immigrants. He killed 22 men and women, and injured more than two dozen more. 

Earlier this year, we witnessed a 19-year-old man armed with an AR-15-style rifle charge into the Chabad of Poway synagogue in California during a service celebrating the end of Passover. He killed a woman and injured three others.

These are not isolated incidents. In 2012, a man fatally shot six people and wounded four others at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin in Oak Creek, Wis. In 2015, nine people were shot and killed at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C. And last year, 11 people were killed and seven injured in a shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. All the shooters were white men motivated by their hatred for minorities.

A May 2017 intelligence bulletin by the FBI and U.S. Department of Homeland Security found that “white supremacist extremism poses [a] persistent threat of lethal violence,” and that white supremacists “were responsible for 49 homicides in 26 attacks from 2000 to 2016 ... more than any other domestic extremist movement.”

What steps has the Justice Department taken to respond to this threat? I asked Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrMulvaney walks back comments tying Ukraine aid to 2016 probe Mulvaney ties withheld Ukraine aid to political probe sought by Trump Matthew Shepard's parents blast Barr's LGBTQ record in anniversary of hate crime law MORE that question in a letter more than three months ago. I am still waiting for a response. As far as I can tell, the attorney general hasn’t uttered a single word in public about this grave threat to American security since he became our nation’s top law enforcement officer.

What we do know is that the Trump administration has shifted its approach to classifying domestic terrorism incidents. For at least the past decade, the FBI has used a separate category to track white supremacist incidents. However, the Trump administration has created a new category for “racially-motivated violent extremism,” which inappropriately combines incidents involving white supremacists and so-called “Black identity extremists,” a fabricated category that has been widely criticized by law enforcement experts.

Given the large number of white supremacist attacks, it is clear that this reclassification downplays the significance of the white supremacist threat. Indeed, FBI Director Christopher Wray admitted to me just three weeks ago that the majority of domestic terrorism arrests this year involved white supremacists.

In the absence of strong leadership from the Trump administration, Congress has to step up. We need to put a bill on the president’s desk that strengthens law enforcement and intelligence efforts to fight domestic terrorism. We can start with the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act, a bill I introduced earlier this year. It is the only legislation pending in the Senate to address the white supremacist threat.

The bill enhances the federal government’s efforts to prevent domestic terrorism by authorizing permanent offices to combat domestic terrorism at the Justice Department, FBI, and Department of Homeland Security. The bill also requires federal law enforcement agencies to regularly assess domestic terrorism threats, focus their limited resources on the most significant domestic terrorism threats, and provide training and resources to assist state, local, and tribal law enforcement in addressing these threats. This would produce a sustained effort with significantly more resources towards combatting white supremacist violence.

I’m ready to put an end to the rise of domestic terrorism and our nation’s gun violence epidemic. Are my Republican colleagues ready to join me? Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMcConnell: Trump's troop pull back in Syria a 'grave strategic mistake' Overnight Defense — Presented by Boeing — Trump insists Turkey wants cease-fire | Fighting continues in Syrian town | Pentagon chief headed to Mideast | Mattis responds to criticism from Trump TSA head rules himself out for top DHS job   MORE (R-Ky.) holds the power to act on this threat, but will he use it? He has prioritized trade treaties with Luxembourg and partisan judicial nominations over the serious and urgent issues facing our society.

I’m tired of waiting around in Leader McConnell’s do-nothing Senate. Americans in El Paso, Chicago, and communities across the country shouldn’t have to bury another loved one because we don’t have the political courage to do our jobs.

Durbin is the Senate minority whip.