Overnight Defense & National Security — Senate Republicans block domestic terrorism bill
Senate Republicans on Thursday blocked a bill that would’ve established domestic terrorism offices within federal law enforcement agencies.
We’ll give you the rundown on the vote. Plus, we’ll talk about why President Biden’s nominee for NATO’s top commander in Europe is looking forward to Finland and Sweden joining the alliance.
Welcome to Defense & National Security, you’re nightly guide to the latest developments at the Pentagon, on Capitol Hill and beyond. For The Hill, I’m Jordan Williams. A friend forward you this newsletter? Subscribe here.
Let’s get to it!
Domestic terrorism bill fails in Senate
Senate Republicans on Thursday blocked a bill to create domestic terrorism offices within federal law enforcement agencies in response to a mass shooting in Buffalo, N.Y., that left 10 people dead.
The vote on the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act broke down along party lines, 47-47, with not a single Republican voting for the measure.
What was in the bill? The legislation would have created an interagency task force within the Justice Department, Department of Homeland Security and the FBI to analyze and combat white supremacist infiltration in the military and federal law enforcement agencies.
Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) framed the bill as an opportunity to vote on Republican and Democratic amendments to curb gun violence, but his plea for GOP support to begin the debate fell flat with Republican colleagues.
“The bill is so important because the mass shooting in Buffalo was an act of domestic terrorism. We need to call it what it is, domestic terrorism. It was terrorism that fed off the poison of conspiracy theories like white replacement theory,” Schumer said on the floor before the vote.
Why the opposition? Republican senators argued that new federal laws and offices are not needed to monitor and prosecute domestic terrorism because politically motivated violence is already covered by existing laws.
They also voiced concerns that the bill could open the door to improper surveillance of political groups and create a double standard for extreme groups on the right and left of the political spectrum.
On the House side: The failed Senate vote comes roughly one week after the House passed the legislation largely along partisan lines, 222 to 203. Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) was the only Republican to vote for it.
Top NATO commander nominee supports Finland, Sweden NATO bid
President Biden’s nominee for NATO’s top commander says he looks forward to Finland’s and Sweden’s ascension into the alliance, saying that the countries fortify its defenses against Russia.
Gen. Christopher Cavoli, currently the commander of U.S. Army Europe-Africa, told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday that the Nordic countries would immediately benefit the alliance.
Who is Cavoli? Cavoli was nominated in May to the role of supreme allied commander, Europe. Should he be confirmed, he would also be dual-hatted as commander of U.S. European Command.
Prior to commanding U.S. Army Europe and Africa, he’s served in several positions in the U.S., Europe and Asia, though he has extensive experience studying Russia. He also speaks Italian, Russian and French.
U.S. supports new members: The Biden administration has championed the potential new members and invited the leaders of Sweden and Finland to the White House last week. However, the alliance would have to unanimously vote to allow the countries to join.
More than 80 senators, led by Sens. Jean Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), have urged the administration to fast-track approval of their applications.
Turkey has emerged as a possible roadblock over its accusations that the countries harbor Kurdish terrorist groups.
From a military perspective: Cavoli told the Senate panel that Finland’s large army is well-equipped, well-trained and very quickly expansible. In addition, the country is “absolutely expert” in defending its 800-mile border with Russia.
He added that Sweden’s army is smaller than Finland’s, but it is growing and “very capable.” But Sweden’s navy in the Baltic Sea will be of “enormous military significance” to the alliance.
Cavoli added that Finland and Sweden joining NATO would mean that nearly all of the Baltic Sea would be coastline of NATO nations, which would create a “very different geometry to the area.”
Blinken outlines US strategy on China
Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Thursday said the U.S. will rally the global alliance supporting Ukraine’s defensive war against Russia to confront China’s global ambitions, calling it a “charged moment for the world.”
“Beijing’s defense of President Putin’s war to erase Ukraine’s sovereignty and secure its sphere of influence in Europe should raise alarm bells for all of us who call the Indo-Pacific Region home,” Blinken said in a speech at George Washington University.
“This is a charged moment for the world… we cannot rely on Beijing to change its trajectory. So, we will shape the strategic environment around Beijing to advance our vision for an open, inclusive international system.”
The secretary’s speech served as a clear articulation of President Biden’s strategy to confront China, which the president has described as the greatest challenge facing the U.S. in the 21st century.
Read The Hill’s five takeaways from the speech here.
ON TAP FOR TOMORROW
- The Center for Strategic and International Studies will host a discussion entitled “At a Crossroads: Finland’s Perspectives on Transatlantic Security” at 9 a.m.
- The U.S. Naval Academy will host its graduation ceremony for the class of 2022 at 10 a.m.
- The Center for Strategic and International Studies will host a discuss on “Modernization Priorities for the Australian Army” at 2 p.m.
WHAT WE’RE READING
- Pentagon says Russia racks up personnel, weapons losses
- Biden to visit Uvalde on Sunday in wake of school shooting
- Police under spotlight over speed of response to school massacre
- The Hill Opinion: Is a durable peace between Ukraine and Russia possible?
- The Hill Opinion: Russia’s invasion of Ukraine may harden US Indo-Pacific allies
Well…that’s it for today! Check out The Hill’s defense and national security pages for the latest coverage. See you tomorrow!
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