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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 and advisers considering firing FBI director after election: WaPo On The Money: Power players play chess match on COVID-19 aid | Pelosi bullish, Trump tempers optimism | Analysis: Nearly 1M have run out of jobless benefits Overnight Health Care: CDC expands definition of 'close contact' after COVID-19 report | GOP coronavirus bill blocked in Senate | OxyContin maker agrees to B settlement with Trump administration 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 EscobarPocan won't seek another term as Progressive Caucus co-chair Trump's illness sparks new urgency for COVID-19 deal Hispanic caucus report takes stock of accomplishments with eye toward 2021 MORE (Texas) and Tom MalinowskiThomas (Tom) MalinowskiPhil Murphy says no coronavirus outbreaks in New Jersey linked to Trump fundraiser Marjorie Taylor Greene spars with GOP lawmaker over QAnon, antifa Hillicon Valley: House votes to condemn QAnon | Americans worried about foreign election interference | DHS confirms request to tap protester phones 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 McConnellOn The Money: Power players play chess match on COVID-19 aid | Pelosi bullish, Trump tempers optimism | Analysis: Nearly 1M have run out of jobless benefits Trump casts doubt on hopes for quick stimulus deal after aides expressed optimism Power players play chess match on COVID-19 aid 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) GottheimerTrump fuels and frustrates COVID-19 relief talks Trump's illness sparks new urgency for COVID-19 deal House approves .2T COVID-19 relief bill as White House talks stall 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 TlaibOcasio-Cortez draws hundreds of thousands of viewers on Twitch livestream Ocasio-Cortez, progressives call on Senate not to confirm lobbyists or executives to future administration posts Pocan won't seek another term as Progressive Caucus co-chair MORE (D-Mich.) and Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarHillicon Valley: Threatening emails raise election concerns | Quibi folds after raising nearly B | Trump signs law making it a crime to hack voting systems Ocasio-Cortez draws hundreds of thousands of viewers on Twitch livestream Veterans launch pro-law enforcement super PAC with battlegrounds ad buys 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 TrumpJudge rules to not release Russia probe documents over Trump tweets Trump and advisers considering firing FBI director after election: WaPo Obama to campaign for Biden in Florida 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 ThompsonLong-shot Espy campaign sees national boost in weeks before election House chairman asks Secret Service for briefing on COVID-19 safeguards for agents Hillicon Valley: House panel says Intelligence Community not equipped to address Chinese threats | House approves bill to send cyber resources to state, local governments 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.