Democrats call for Pelosi to cut recess short to address white nationalism

Democrats call for Pelosi to cut recess short to address white nationalism
© Aaron Schwartz

Dozens of House Democrats are pressing Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy Pelosi 'Don't mess with Mama': Pelosi's daughter tweets support following press conference comments Bloomberg: Trump should be impeached On The Money: Congress races to beat deadline on shutdown | Trump asks Supreme Court to shield financial records from House Democrats | House passes bill to explicitly ban insider trading MORE (D-Calif.) to cut short the long summer break and bring House committees back to Washington to address the violent rise of white nationalism.

Behind two freshman lawmakers — Reps. Veronica EscobarVeronica EscobarFive questions looming over impeachment Rep. Veronica Escobar elected to represent freshman class in House leadership Brindisi, Lamb recommended for Armed Services, Transportation Committees MORE (Texas) and Tom MalinowskiThomas (Tom) MalinowskiMore than 100 Democrats sign letter calling for Stephen Miller to resign Diplomat ties Trump closer to Ukraine furor Impeachment week: Trump probe hits crucial point MORE (N.J.) — the Democrats maintain that "urgent attention" is needed to tackle "the threats posed by white supremacist terrorism" after Saturday's deadly mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, where the suspect appeared to be driven by anti-immigrant sentiment.

The pair is circulating a letter among House Democrats urging Pelosi to call back the relevant panels to take up related legislation. 

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"In the wake of the El Paso shootings, it is clear that terrorists motivated by a common white supremacist ideology are committing deadly attacks against African-American, Jewish, Muslim, Hispanic and other non-white communities in the United States and around the world, and that they pose a clear and present danger to our national security," reads the letter, which has been signed by 48 members so far.

Separately, the letter — which is also addressed to Sen. Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellDemocratic challenger to Joni Ernst releases ad depicting her as firing gun at him Senate confirms eight Trump court picks in three days The case for censuring, and not impeaching, Donald Trump MORE (R-Ky.) — calls on the Senate majority leader to reconvene the full upper chamber in order to consider House-passed legislation aimed at preventing dangerous people from obtaining firearms. 

"We should not wait until the district work period ends on September 9 to take action that will protect the American people," it reads.

Signatories to the letter cut across ideological lines within the party. Supporters include moderates such as Rep. Josh GottheimerJoshua (Josh) GottheimerBipartisan lawmakers introduce amendment affirming US commitment to military aid to Israel Progressive group unveils first slate of 2020 congressional endorsements Hillicon Valley: Critics press feds to block Google, Fitbit deal | Twitter takes down Hamas, Hezbollah-linked accounts | TikTok looks to join online anti-terrorism effort | Apple pledges .5B to affordable housing MORE (D-N.J.), a co-chairman of the Problem Solvers Caucus; liberals including Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), chairman of the Rules Committee; and rabble-rousing freshmen like Reps. Rashida TlaibRashida Harbi TlaibHouse moves ahead on long-stalled resolution supporting two states for Israelis and Palestinians GOP leader says he had 'a hard time' believing Pelosi Al Green calls for including Trump's 'racism' in impeachment articles MORE (D-Mich.) and Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarAl Green calls for including Trump's 'racism' in impeachment articles Republicans disavow GOP candidate who said 'we should hang' Omar Hillicon Valley: Trump officials propose retaliatory tariffs over French digital tax | FBI classifies FaceApp as threat | Twitter revamps policies to comply with privacy laws | Zuckerberg defends political ads policy MORE (D-Minn.).

The letter campaign was first reported Tuesday by Vice News.

The lawmakers have an uphill battle in convincing the congressional leaders to return to Washington amid the long August recess.

McConnell has warned that he won't consider any gun bills that don't enjoy the support of President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrumps light 97th annual National Christmas Tree Trump to hold campaign rally in Michigan 'Don't mess with Mama': Pelosi's daughter tweets support following press conference comments MORE and bipartisan leaders in both chambers. 

And Pelosi, on a conference call with rank-and-file Democrats Monday, rejected calls by some of her troops for the House to return to Washington to take up tougher gun laws and legislation addressing white nationalism. She's putting the onus on McConnell to return this month to move the House-passed gun bills — including proposals to strengthen the background check system prior to firearm sales — and her allies fear that reconvening the House would step on that message.

“It is understandable that Members have many enthusiasms right now," a senior Democratic aide said Tuesday by email. "However, this letter distracts from the enormous inside and outside public push on Mitch McConnell to act."

The aide added that the legislation to fight white nationalism promoted in the Democrats' letter "hasn’t been marked up and the author isn’t on any of the committees of jurisdiction." 

"Now is not the time for the individual self-promotion of members’ pet bills,” the aide said. 

The divisions highlight the tensions — both between the parties and within them — as lawmakers scramble in search of the appropriate response to Saturday's shooting in an El Paso Walmart, which left 22 dead, and a second mass shooting in Dayton, Ohio, early Sunday morning, which led to at least nine more deaths.

The suspect in the El Paso shooting posted a manifesto online saying the attack was motivated by a "Hispanic invasion of Texas."

The suspect in the Dayton shooting was killed by police.

Escobar, who represents El Paso, and Malinowski pointed to several bills aimed at tackling domestic terrorism, including legislation providing more resources to the Justice and Homeland Security departments to fight the threat. 

Pelosi, in a letter of her own sent to House Democrats on Monday, noted that Rep. Bennie ThompsonBennie Gordon ThompsonJudge temporarily halts construction of a private border wall in Texas Hillicon Valley: FCC moves against Huawei, ZTE | Dem groups ask Google to reconsider ads policy | Bill introduced to increase data access during probes House GOP criticizes impeachment drive as distracting from national security issues MORE (D-Miss.), chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, is holding "a series of hearings" on white nationalism and domestic terrorism, beginning next week.

A spokesman for the committee said those will consist of roundtables and meetings outside of Washington during the recess, while formal hearings will take place on Capitol Hill when Congress returns next month.

For the letter's supporters, that's not fast enough.

"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," the authors wrote. "Let us approach that work with the urgency it demands."

— Rachel Frazin contributed. Updated at 6:10 p.m.