Chuck Schumer is avoiding a quick Senate vote on gun legislation that would almost surely fail, choosing to hold out hope that the latest mass shooting will finally unstick a bipartisan deal.
The New York Democrat castigated the GOP for its “obeisance to the NRA” and said that “too many members on that side care more about the NRA,” in a fiery floor speech on Wednesday. He said that while he sympathized with Democrats who want to hold Republicans accountable via a quick vote on gun safety legislation, voters already know where Republicans stand.
He’s focusing his efforts on reaching a deal with GOP senators, something some of his Democratic members prefer over what Schumer called “accountability votes.” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) is leading the effort to discuss a response to the horrific shooting which killed at least 19 children and two teachers in Texas on Tuesday.
“My Republican colleagues can work with us now. I think it’s a slim prospect. Very slim, all too slim. We’ve been burnt so many times before. But this is so important,” Schumer said. “We must pursue action and even ask Republicans to join us again.”
He deemed the prospects “maybe, unlikely, burnt in the past. But their hearts might see what has happened and join us, do the right thing.” After Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell came to the Senate floor and said he was “sickened and outraged” about the shooting, Schumer came back and asked McConnell to advance a domestic terrorism bill slated to get a vote on Thursday. That legislation was Democrats’ response to a racist shooting that occurred earlier this month in Buffalo.
For a majority leader never shy about forcing Republicans to reject legislation, Schumer’s tactics on gun safety reflect a Democratic Caucus hungry for success on responding to mass shooters. Murphy says he doesn’t need votes on legislation that he knows will fail — a view shared by many Democrats. And holding a failed vote now would certainly cool any possible conversations between Republicans and Murphy, who has spoken to both Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) in the past 24 hours.
Schumer had previously vowed to put House-passed legislation that expands background checks on the Senate floor, but to date the chamber has not considered gun-specific legislation. Murphy had previously sought bipartisan conversations with Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), though the two never had a breakthrough. Murphy is hoping to restart those conversations in the coming days.
The window may be relatively short for action, since any bipartisan deal would require at least 10 GOP votes and many Republicans are already eyeing a Senate takeover in November. Moreover, the GOP is expected to take back the House — making any additional votes on gun legislation unlikely next year.
When Democrats controlled the Senate in 2013, most Republicans and four moderate Democrats voted to filibuster a bipartisan background expansion written by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Toomey. And a bipartisan effort to respond to mass shootings was abandoned in 2019 as Democrats sought to impeach former President Donald Trump.
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