(The Center Square) – Members of Illinois’ congressional delegation are split on the proposed Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act, a measure that gives more tools to law enforcement to monitor groups they consider extremist.
U.S. Rep. Brad Schneider, D-Deerfield, said in a statement after filing the bill the riots in the U.S Capitol on Jan. 6 were from “domestic terror groups and extremists,” and fighting “white supremacy” isn’t a Republican or Democratic issue.
His bill would give federal law enforcement like the FBI more power “to monitor, investigate, and prosecute cases of domestic terrorism.”
U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly, D-Matteson, said the bill will “help prevent further hate crimes and acts of domestic terrorism” and “Congress cannot delay.”
U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Springfield, pushed for the measure to give law enforcement agencies more tools to surveil and go after what he called “homegrown extremists.” He said he’s been raising the alarm about “the threat of right-wing extremism.”
U.S. Rep. Darin LaHood, R-Peoria, said he has concerns about the bill and the rhetoric from Democrats.
“I have some real constitutional concerns, some privacy concerns on that, violations of the Bill of Rights, so I think that bill has a long way to go, but that doesn't mean that the Democrats aren’t going to push for that,” LaHood told WMAY. “I think there are real concerns about the way that the double standard, and the hypocrisy of how the protests last summer by Antifa and Black Lives Matter, and the violence and the anarchy and criminal activity that went on, that that’s not treated the same as what happened at the capitol.”
Everyone who broke the law in D.C. on Jan. 6 should be held accountable to the furthest extent of the law, just as anyone taking part in violent demonstrations should, LaHood said.
Pressed on how to keep such powers from being abused for politics, Durbin said the measure makes no distinction.
“Let me make it very clear, right-wing, left-wing, any wing extremists should be treated the same when it comes to violence and the destruction of government property and other property,” Durbin said.
Civil libertarian groups have denounced similar bills in the past, saying they could lead to discriminatory surveillance, investigation and prosecution.
“Law enforcement agencies’ use of these authorities undermines and has violated equal protection, due process, and First Amendment rights,” the ACLU said in 2019 about a similar proposal. “Law enforcement agencies already have all the authorities they need to address white supremacist violence effectively.”
Even some prominent Democrats are opposed to such laws in reaction to the violence on Jan. 6.
On Twitter on Jan. 9, U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-New York, responded to a tweet calling for a domestic terrorism statute.
“As the Vice Chair of the Oversight subcommittee who ran investigations into domestic terror laws, I respectfully disagree,” she wrote. “Our problems on Wednesday weren’t that there weren’t enough laws, resources, or intelligence. We had them, & they were not used.”
“It’s time to find out why,” she said.