Legislative Activity

House Republicans Unveil Counterterrorism Legislation

On Friday, July 1, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) introduced H.R. 5611, the Homeland Safety and Security Act, in response to the mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando and other recent acts of terror around the world. The bill would amend the Homeland Security Act of 2002 to establish an Office for Partnerships to Prevent Terrorism (OPPT) within the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) responsible for combating radical Islamist terrorism in the United States, as well as coordinating a grant program to assist community groups and organizations with counter-messaging campaigns that target terrorism.  The bill would also direct DHS to submit a comprehensive strategy for countering radical Islamist terrorism to Congress and the US Department of State to revoke passports of individuals who are a member of or affiliated with or who have aided, abetted, or given material support to terrorist organizations.

The bill would also authorize the US Department of Justice to notify federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies to delay the purchase of a firearm from suspected terrorists for 72 hours and ultimately deny the purchase if probable cause of risk is determined in relation to the purchase, a provision similar to one advanced by Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX) to address gun control but that was defeated in the Senate in June.

The legislation comes as Republicans and Democrats in both chambers continue to clash over gun control legislation in response to the Orlando attack.  Despite initial speculation that the House would vote on H.R. 5611, the measure faces opposition from House Republicans and Democrats alike.  Conservatives have expressed concern over the perceived restriction of second amendment rights, and while Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) has met privately with Reps. John Lewis (D-GA) and John Larson (D-CT), Democratic leaders in the push for gun control in the House, to discuss their party’s concerns, including allegations that the language is unenforceable and a “bait and switch” to address gun laws.  Speaker Ryan would not to commit a schedule for bringing up the bill, but in a recent press conference stated that “The last thing we’re going to do is rush something to the floor that we don’t have right.”

Senate Considers Immigration Measures

Democrats blocked consideration of two immigration enforcement bills on Wednesday, July 6:  S. 3100, the Stop Sanctuary Cities Act, sponsored by Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA), and S. 2193, Kate’s Law, sponsored by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX). The bills – which Republicans sought to advance on the anniversary of the death of Kate Steinle, who police say died at the hands of an undocumented immigrant with a criminal record and who had been deported multiple times –  would withhold federal grant funding from designated “sanctuary jurisdictions” and increase penalties for immigrants detained for crossing the border multiple times, respectively.  President Obama has threatened to veto both measures, and they were opposed by numerous immigration and legal groups.

This Week’s Hearings:

  • On Monday, July 11, the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Response, and Communications will hold a field hearing titled “A Prepared Community is a Resilient Community.”
  • On Tuesday, July 12, the House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing titled “Oversight of the Department of Justice” with Attorney General Loretta Lynch.
  • On Wednesday, July 13, the House Homeland Security Subcommittees on Counterterrorism and on Intelligence will hold a two part hearing titled “Counterintelligence and Insider Threats: How Prepared is the Department of Homeland Security?”
  • On Thursday, July 14, the House Homeland Security Committee will hold a hearing titled “Worldwide Threats to the Homeland: ISIS and the New Wave of Terror.”
  • On Thursday, July 14, the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold an Executive Business Meeting to consider pending legislation and nominations.