EXCLUSIVE: Sen. Tom Cotton is joining Rep. Ken Buck in introducing for the new Congress a bill to strengthen federal penalties for rioters in the wake of violence from the right at the Capitol and from the left in the West this month.
Buck, R-Colo., first introduced the legislation, called the BRICKS Act, in November, following months of protests last year that often turned into riots. They started in the late spring and continued through the summer and into the fall before the presidential election. Buck at the time condemned “an unprecedented amount of violence from riots organized by Antifa and other radical leftist groups.”
But in the wake of a riot by a pro-Trump mob that interrupted the Jan. 6 certification of the presidential election results and forced hundreds of lawmakers and former Vice President Pence into hiding, Buck plans to bring the bill back for the new Congress and has Cotton, R-Ark., on board to introduce companion legislation in the Senate.
“Those who use violence to advance their political agenda must be met with the full force of the law—no matter their party affiliation,” Cotton said in a statement.”This bill will strengthen our laws to deter political violence and prevent further destruction.”
Added Buck: “The riot at the Capitol and the riots that occurred over the summer were both disgraceful and caused harm to our nation. Those responsible must be held accountable — and the BRICKS Act would do just that.”
“Any act of violence is wrong,” Buck said. “In order to truly restore unity in this country, we must prosecute these individuals to the fullest extend of the law.”
Buck will officially introduce the bill on Monday, and Cotton at a later date.
The BRICKS Act would increase federal penalties for participating in or aiding rioting from five years in prison to ten years. If serious bodily injury is inflicted, that penalty goes up to 25 years. And rioters could face life in prison if a person dies because of their actions.
The Jan. 6 riot resulted in multiple deaths.
Cosponsors of the bill in the House are Reps. Tom McClintock, R-Calif.; David Scott, R-Ga.; Randy Weber, R-Texas; Bob Gibbs, R-Ohio; Jeff Duncan, R-S.C.; Ted Budd, R-N.C.; Tom Tiffany, R-Wis.; Andy Harris, R-Md.; and Greg Steube, R-Fla.
It’s unclear what the bill’s prospects for passing are. There are no Democrat co-sponsors and Democrats control both chambers of Congress. But Democrats have taken a stronger stance on riots since the Jan. 6 sacking of the Capitol.
Historically, most riot-related crimes are charged and prosecuted in the local jurisdictions where the riots happened. Buck in November told Fox News that federal prosecutions of Antifa-related riots should be stepped up because rioters “are operating across the country and their members are traveling across the country. This is a federal crime, federal jurisdiction and the federal government should be prosecuting these.”
Following the Jan. 6 violence, the federal government has undertaken sweeping investigations into the rioters who stormed Capitol and brought multiple cases against the rioters.
Meanwhile, more violence has struck Portland, Ore., and Seattle, the sites of much of last year’s unrest, in recent days.
More than a dozen people have been arrested in the two Northwest cities, according to police reports Thursday, after anti-Biden demonstrators targeted government buildings and the Oregon Democratic Party building in Portland.
But despite the targeting of the Democratic Party office, a photo from The Oregonian shows the rioters in Portland weren’t Trump supporters but appeared to be Antifa-related, demanding “revenge,” “for police murders,” “imperialist wars,” “and fascist massacres.”
Rioters also targeted the building for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
Looming in Congress is an impeachment trial for former President Donald Trump for allegedly inciting insurrection on Jan. 6 when he addressed a crowd of his supporters before the storming of the Capitol. Trump did not explicitly call for violence during his speech on Jan. 6 before the mob of his supporters ransacked the Capitol. He specifically said the crowd should march “peacefully and patriotically.”
But he did instruct his followers to march to the Capitol, repeated false claims that he won the election and said he and his followers were there to save democracy, as other allies at the rally used pitched rhetoric. Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani said “let’s have trial by combat” at the rally.
Cotton and Buck were among the lawmakers who did not object to the certification of the election results on Jan. 6. Both are longtime supporters of Trump and expressed concern about election irregularities. But they said that Congress did not have the authority to reject slates of electors when states had only sent one official slate.
Fox News’ Louis Casiano and David Aaro contributed to this report.
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