After a marathon Democratic filibuster and pitched negotiations on gun control measures, senators are finally nearing a Senate floor showdown on firearms policy — but only to hold votes that are highly likely to fail.
On Thursday morning, the Senate Republican Conference held a special caucus meeting on what amendments they would put forward to match a background checks proposal from Democrats, senators said. By the end of the day, senators had locked in an agreement to vote Monday on four competing gun-related measures.
Earlier Thursday, Republicans had coalesced behind presenting a side-by-side alternative to Democrats’ bill to ban suspected terrorists from buying guns, but there was some division in the room about what other amendments the GOP should put forward to compete with a universal background checks proposal that has repeatedly failed, attendees said.
Ultimately, Republicans scheduled a vote on an amendment sponsored by [score]Sens. Chuck Grassley of Iowa[/score] and [score]Ted Cruz of Texas[/score] that would add mental health considerations to firearms background checks. The measure also boosts funding for the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.
The proposal from Grassley and Cruz will get a vote alongside background checks legislation from Democrats, which is sponsored by [score]Democratic Sens. Chris Murphy of Connecticut[/score], [score]Cory Booker of New Jersey[/score] and [score]Chuck Schumer of New York[/score]. The other two votes will be dueling proposals on barring suspected terrorists from purchasing firearms — one from [score]Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn[/score] and the other from [score]Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.)[/score].
Cornyn and [score]Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.)[/score] had presented competing proposals inside the special meeting, Republicans said. Toomey is seeking to strike a bipartisan deal but there is more enthusiasm for Cornyn’s proposal, which has been blessed by the NRA.
Toomey “presented it for the first time this morning and people are intrigued. He’ll be entitled to get a vote on his if he wants it but the question is how long do we want to keep talking about gun control and when are we going to pivot to the national security debate,” Cornyn, the majority whip, said in an interview.
Three of the four are essentially revotes from last year, when universal background checks and two anti-terrorism firearms bills both were defeated.
“Republicans must join us for those measures to pass. But that won’t happen if the Republicans continue to take their orders — and I mean orders — from the National Rifle Association and Gun Owners of America,” [score]Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid[/score] said Thursday.
Indeed, Feinstein (D-Calif.) will offer an amendment that would bar suspected terrorists from buying guns, allowing the Justice Department to arbitrate disputes when people mistakenly end up on the terrorist watch list. The Justice Department gave an endorsement to Feinstein’s bill, which has been tweaked to allow gun sales to go through when blocking a sale could blow up a major terrorism investigations.