On Thursday, the U.S. House passed a bill backed by a Central Florida Democrat to fund workshops for federal, state and local first responders training them to respond to terrorist attacks. 

U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Penn., brought out the “Joint Counterterrorism Awareness Workshop Series Act” to fund  Joint Counterterrorism Awareness Workshop Series (JCTAWS) that are held by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the National Counterterrorism Center, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla., and U.S. Rep. Dan Donovan, R-NY, were original co-sponsors. U.S. Rep. Val Demings, D-Fla., and U.S. Rep. Peter King, R-NY, later joined as co-sponsors. 

The House passed the bill on a 398-4 vote on Thursday with four Republicans--U.S. Reps. Justin Amash of Michigan, Warren Davidson of Ohio, Walter Jones of North Carolina and Thomas Massie of Kentucky--voting against it. 

After the vote, Fitzpatrick, , who worked for the FBI and has served as an EMT, weighed in. 

“As we mark the sixteenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, we remember the nearly 3,000 innocent people lost in that heinous act – including 18 from my home of Bucks County, Pennsylvania,” Fitzpatrick said. “Additionally, we honor the more than 400 first responders who perished, and the countless more whose long-term health was impacted because of their courageous action.

“Since 9/11, we’ve seen the devastating impact of coordinated terrorist attacks on civilian targets. In these cases, first responders including local police, fire and emergency medical personnel are the main response force,” he added. “It is crucial these men and women have the training and tools to operate in these planned attacks. That is why I introduced H.R. 3284, the Joint Counterterrorism Awareness Workshop Series Act of 2017, to authorize a vital workshop series allowing State and local jurisdictions to prepare for coordinated terrorist attacks. I’m grateful for the support of the Homeland Security Committee and Representatives Murphy and Donovan for working to advance this crucial legislation.”

Since being launched in 2011, more than 30 metropolitan areas, including Orlando in 2014, have hosted CTAWS events which have includes cities testing their readiness plans and working with federal authorities to refine them. 

“As a Member of Congress representing central Florida, I know firsthand the difference that highly-skilled, well-prepared first responders can make during a crisis. During the 2016 Pulse nightclub terrorist attack, law enforcement officials, medical professionals and other first responders saved many lives. Joint Counterterrorism Awareness Workshops will help communities across the country establish effective policies and procedures to prevent, plan for, and respond to a coordinated terrorist attack. This bipartisan bill, which I am proud to co-lead with Reps. Fitzpatrick and Donovan, will help keep our communities safe,”

So far, there is no counterpart over in the U.S. Senate.