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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 PelosiTrump shows he holds stranglehold on GOP, media in CPAC barnburner Biden brings back bipartisan meetings at the White House McCarthy: 'I would bet my house' GOP takes back lower chamber in 2022 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 EscobarEl Paso shooting survivor deported to Mexico after traffic stop House Judiciary Democrats ask Pence to invoke 25th Amendment to remove Trump 7 surprise moments from a tumultuous year in politics MORE (Texas) and Tom MalinowskiThomas (Tom) MalinowskiDemocrats don't trust GOP on 1/6 commission: 'These people are dangerous' YouTube still pushing white supremacist videos: study Lawmakers grill NSA on years-old breach in the wake of massive Russian hack 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 McConnellTrump shows he holds stranglehold on GOP, media in CPAC barnburner Trump rules out starting a new party: 'Fake news' Sunday shows - Trump's reemergence, COVID-19 vaccines and variants dominate 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 call for immediate vote on COVID-19 vaccine distribution package Lawmakers say they are 'targets,' ask to boost security New Jersey lawmakers press for SALT cap repeal in next relief package 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 TlaibSix ways to visualize a divided America Jamaal Bowman's mother dies of COVID-19: 'I share her legacy with all of you' Democrats urge Biden FDA to drop in-person rule for abortion pill MORE (D-Mich.) and Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarMehdi Hasan gets MSNBC Sunday prime-time show Six ways to visualize a divided America Jamaal Bowman's mother dies of COVID-19: 'I share her legacy with all of you' 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 TrumpSacha Baron Cohen calls out 'danger of lies, hate and conspiracies' in Golden Globes speech Sorkin uses Abbie Hoffman quote to condemn Capitol violence: Democracy is 'something you do' Ex-Trump aide Pierson planning run for Congress 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 ThompsonLawmakers line up behind potential cyber breach notification legislation NAACP president accuses Trump of having operated under 'white supremacist doctrine' Lawmakers blame SolarWinds hack on 'collective failure' to prioritize cybersecurity 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.