Senate negotiators are racing to finalize legislative text for a gun safety bill, aiming to hold a vote on the final product before Congress leaves for recess in less than two weeks.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Monday that “for the first time in a long time, the Senate has a path forward on legislation that will save lives.” It’s a potentially rocky path from framework to bill text, however, a fact Schumer acknowledged: “make no mistake about it, we have a lot of work left to do before we actually pass a bill.”
The New York Democrat reiterated his pledge to move on the legislation as soon as it’s ready. Senate Judiciary Chair Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said his staff is working with Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), the lead Democratic negotiator, on legislative text. He said the bill would “probably” not go through his committee, a signal that leadership wants to move as quickly as possible.
“We’re trying to seize the moment and the momentum,” Durbin said. “And we have both. So waiting runs the risk that some other critically important issue squeezes it off the calendar.” He cited the Supreme Court’s upcoming decision on Roe v. Wade, as an “example [where] we would be tied up in controversy again.”
The legislative push comes after a bipartisan group of 20 senators — including 10 Republicans, the amount needed to break a potential filibuster — announced Sunday that they’d reached a framework that, if passed, would amount to Congress’ most significant action on guns in decades.
Negotiators have said they want the Senate to pass the package before the chamber leaves at the end of next week for the two-week July 4 recess. That timeline is theoretically feasible, if the text is finished by the end of this week, according to two people familiar with the deal. If writing the legislation takes longer, senators may have to wait until after the recess to move forward. It could take a week or longer for the full Senate to pass the bill once they have text, unless it earns support from all 100 senators.
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) described the framework as “very important and hard fought” but echoed Schumer by saying that “now comes the even more difficult task of trying to agree on legislative text.”
“My hope is that we can complete that job in the next few days, hopefully by the end of the week so that the bill will be available for all senators, indeed all of the world, to read,” he said.
Republicans want to clinch the deal as soon as possible, both to ensure conservatives don’t mobilize against the legislation and to allow them to shift their rhetoric back to the economy. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell focused on inflation during his floor remarks Monday.
In a brief interview, McConnell, who supports the negotiations, said he’s “hopeful we’re on the verge of getting an outcome here.”
In addition to the back-to-back mass shootings in Uvalde, Texas and Buffalo, N.Y., which spurred the latest gun talks, the Supreme Court is expected to soon decide whether states and localities can prevent gun owners from carrying their weapons outside the home.
The bipartisan framework would change the background check system to increase scrutiny of juvenile records for gun buyers under the age of 21 and closes the “boyfriend loophole” by broadening restrictions for individuals who have abused their romantic partners. In addition, it includes grants for states to implement so-called red flag laws, as well as new spending for mental health and school security.
While the framework currently has the necessary backing of 10 Republicans, GOP aides warned that some provisions could change as the parties haggle over the actual text. The bill’s ultimate cost is also unclear and could affect the whip count.
So far, the National Rifle Association has declined to weigh in on the framework, saying it would “make our position known when the full text of the bill is available for review.” But Gun Owners of America, another gun rights group, is already pressuring senators to vote against the deal.
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