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Is the Violent Radicalization Bill Dead?

January 21, 2008 - by Donny Shaw

(Updated below)

On their website, the Bill of Rights Defense Committee points out that Jeff Stein, Congressional Quarterly’s National Security Editor, has reported that the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism is dead. In an obscure paragraph towards the end of an obscure article from December 14th, Stein wrote:

>Legislation to create a “National Commission on the Prevention of Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism” (HR 1955) died a quiet death in the Senate last week. Much maligned here as a $22 million boondoggle, the idea to create yet another government entity to study an overblown threat already addressed by the $44 billion-a-year U.S. intelligence community, not to mention countless think tanks and authors, was the brainchild of Rep. Jane Harman , D-Calif. A few years ago local police and the FBI broke up a prison-based plot to bomb synagogues in the name of jihad in her district. Sen. Susan Collins , R-Maine, introduced a companion measure, but it was doomed by a lack of specificity on who the commission’s targets were, among other problems.

Stein doesn’t substantiate his claim in the article, and I can’t find a single mention on the internet of this bill being “dead” that doesn’t cite him. It’s not made clear whether he is referring to an inside scoop that he got that the bill won’t be brought to the floor for a vote in the Senate, or if there was some kind of failing procedural motion to proceed to it in either the Homeland Security Committee or on the Senate floor.

What is clear, however, is that the bill has gotten a huge amount of negative attention from citizen journalists and grassroots groups; enough, possibly, to scare off senators from voting for it. Both the House and Senate versions have been high on (if not on top of) our site-wide list of most-blogged-about bills since the House version was passed in October. They have also both been sitting high on our list of most-viewed bills. And as I stressed here, if it wasn’t for the bloggers and citizen watchdogs, the bill would have gone largely unnoticed because the traditional news sources have been all but silent about it.

So, to all those who oppose this bill, it seems like you may have helped to stop it from being enacted. But if you really care about it,
you may not want to celebrate or stop spreading the word about it until there is some firmer confirmation that it is actually dead.

UPDATE: Jeff Stein of CQ, the only Beltway insider that seems to have the scoop on the death of this bill, got back to me with a bit of an elaboration of what he meant when he said that it “died a quiet death in the Senate.” Here’s what he offered for clarification:

>It ‘died’ for the 2007 session. It’s not likely to be taken up again in this year — at least certainly not in its present form form. Members of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee have serious problems with it, not to mention civil liberties groups. Having said that, one can never predict with confidence what Congress will do.

This really seems to point to the influence of bloggers and grassroots groups as the leading forces in stopping this bill for becoming law. When it passed the House in October, only six (of 435) members opposed it enough to vote “nay.” Two months (and tons of outrage in the blogs) later, there’s not even enough support for it to pass by a simple majority vote in a 17-member committee that includes both of its co-sponsors as members.

Remember, none of the big newspapers so much as mentioned this bill either before or after the vote in the House.

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