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 PelosiPelosi asks Democrats for 'leverage' on impeachment Is there internet life after thirty? Pelosi says Dems 'have to be ready to throw a punch — for the children' in 2020 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 EscobarLatino Texas lawmakers condemn governor for 'dangerous' tweets about immigrants Gabby Giffords participating in gun violence town hall in El Paso following mass shooting Congressional Hispanic Caucus calls for answers on Mississippi ICE raids MORE (Texas) and Tom MalinowskiThomas (Tom) MalinowskiDemocrats press FBI, DHS on response to white supremacist violence Second Democrat representing Trump district backs impeachment Republicans plot comeback in New Jersey 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 McConnellDavid Axelrod after Ginsburg cancer treatment: Supreme Court vacancy could 'tear this country apart' Pelosi asks Democrats for 'leverage' on impeachment Democrats press FBI, DHS on response to white supremacist violence 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) GottheimerRepublicans plot comeback in New Jersey Assault weapons ban picks up steam in Congress The 11 House Dems from Trump districts who support assault weapons ban 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 TlaibMichigan city declines to renew contract with ICE to hold detainees Former GOP Rep. Jason Lewis says he'll challenge Tina Smith in Minnesota Israel should resist Trump's efforts to politicize support MORE (D-Mich.) and Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarTrump to return to North Carolina to stump for special election candidate Former GOP Rep. Jason Lewis says he'll challenge Tina Smith in Minnesota Israel should resist Trump's efforts to politicize support 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 TrumpDavid Axelrod after Ginsburg cancer treatment: Supreme Court vacancy could 'tear this country apart' EU says it will 'respond in kind' if US slaps tariffs on France Ginsburg again leaves Supreme Court with an uncertain future 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 ThompsonPelosi asks Democrats for 'leverage' on impeachment DHS cyber agency to prioritize election security, Chinese threats Trump officials unveil rule allowing indefinite migrant family detentions 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.