Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) says he’s spoken to President Donald Trump about a number of gun control bills that could see action in the Senate after the summer recess, including a “universal background check” bill and even a ban on semi-automatic rifles. In fact McConnell indicated that gun ban legislation could very well be brought up for a vote when Congress returns in early September.
“It’s certainly one of the front and center issues,” he said. “But what we can’t do is fail to pass something. What I want to see here is an outcome, not a bunch of partisan back and forths, shots across the bow.”
McConnell has been pilloried by Democrats and gun control advocacy groups for refusing to schedule a Senate vote for a House measure to expand background checks. Congress is in recess until September 9.
McConnell said Thursday “the key to this is making a law, not a point.” He said he hoped to have discussions between members of the two political parties in the next few weeks before the Senate returns to Washington.
It looks like McConnell is all in to “do something” when lawmakers return to the capitol, and the “something” may end up being more than one thing. The senior senator from Kentucky also indicated growing support for a background check bill introduced by Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Pat Toomey (R-PA), but said he would not bring the Senate back into session early to vote on any measures, despite pressure from Democrats to do so.
McConnell dismissed the idea of calling the Senate back immediately to pass the House legislation, saying “we’d just have people scoring political points and nothing would happen. There has to be a bipartisan discussion here of what we can agree on.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday wrote to Trump asking him to call the Senate back into session immediately to bring up the House-passed gun legislation.
The legislation’s sponsor, Rep. Mike Thompson, D-California, who chairs the House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, and 213 House Democrats, including Kentucky’s sole Democrat, Rep. John Yarmuth, have sought to pressure McConnell, urging him in a letter to call the Senate back from recess and pass the House legislation.
Yarmuth, chairman of the House Budget Committee, and Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, were to join gun control advocates Thursday night at a Louisville rally to press McConnell to pass gun reform legislation.
McConnell also mentioned “red flag” legislation as another likely agenda item for the Senate in September, though what the final legislation will look like appears to be up in the air at the moment. Senator Marco Rubio’s bill that would incentivize states to pass red flag laws is currently in committee, but Senator Lindsey Graham is also working on a bill that may incorporate some of the Rubio language while adding in additional due process protections.
The three measures that seem most likely to get a vote at this time are the “red flag” laws, “universal background checks”, and a ban on whatever guns would deemed to be “assault weapons”. All three are guaranteed approval in the Democrat-controlled House, but whether or not any or all of the three could get 60 votes in the U.S. Senate is still an open question. As more Republicans, voters and politicians alike, express their support for the measures, however, the pressure to “do something” is only going to grow.
As I’ve said before, it’s critical that gun owners contact their members of Congress and their state legislatures right now. Don’t wait until September when federal lawmakers return to Washington. As Tom Knighton notes, pro-2nd Amendment groups are talking to the White House, but gun control advocates are flooding congressional offices with calls and emails demanding votes on these anti-gun bills, and your representatives need to hear from you individually as well.