WASHINGTON (HILL) — Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) told colleagues on the Senate floor Wednesday that he will not immediately bring gun control measures to the floor in the wake of two mass shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde, Texas, because he doesn’t expect them to muster enough Republican votes to pass.
Instead, the Democratic leader said he will wait for Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and other members of his caucus to try to negotiate a bipartisan compromise with Republicans on a measure that has a better chance of securing 60 votes to overcome a filibuster.
“There are some who want this body to quickly vote on sensible gun safety legislation, legislation supported by the vast majority of Americans,” he said. “They want to see this body vote quickly so the American people can know which side each senator is on …. I’m sympathetic to that, and I believe that accountability votes are important.”
But Schumer said he thought that bringing gun-control legislation in the immediate aftermath of Buffalo and Uvalde, where two lone shooters left a total of 31 people dead in the span of 10 days, would be fruitless because of staunch Republican opposition to such reforms. He noted that Republicans opposed proposals to expand background checks, ban assault-style weapons and prohibit high-capacity magazines after a gunman killed 20 children at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in 2012.
“If the slaughter of schoolchildren can’t convince Republicans to buck the NRA, what can we do?” he said, referring to the National Rifle Association. “Sadly, this isn’t a case of the American people now knowing where their senators stand. They know. They know because my Republican colleagues are perfectly clear on this issue. Crystal clear.”
“Republicans don’t pretend that they support sensible gun safety legislation. They don’t pretend to be moved by the fact that 90 percent of Americans, regardless of party, support something as common sense as background checks, that the vast majority of gun owners support the background checks bill,” he said.
Schumer said he would hold legislation from the floor to give Murphy and other colleagues a chance to negotiate bipartisan legislation that has a better chance of passing. “Americans can cast their vote in November for senators or members of Congress that reflect how he or she stands with guns,” he said. “In the meantime, my Republican colleagues can work with us now. I know this is a slim prospect, very slim, all too slim. We’ve been burnt so many times before. But this is so important.”
One promising candidate for action is “red flags” legislation crafted by Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) that would authorize and establish procedures for removing firearms from people judged a danger to themselves or others. Graham and centrist Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) co-sponsored Blumenthal’s Federal Extreme Risk Protection Order Act in the last Congress.
Schumer held out hope that Republicans will come around to supporting gun violence measures at some point in the future, even if he doesn’t see a chance of passing reform proposals anytime soon. “I have such a firm belief, taught to me by my late father … that if you do the right thing and persist, justice will eventually prevail. But you got to keep persisting, and we will,” he said.
He offered the slim hope that Murphy and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who negotiated a narrowly crafted bill to expand background checks with Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) in 2013, would be able to reach some kind of agreement with Republicans in the next several weeks or months. “Democrats have been trying to work hard with Republicans, Sen. Murphy, Sen. Manchin, on legislation that will eventually pass and become law,” he said. “The other side has refused. There are so many options available to us. So many ideas. We just need some brave Republicans to stand before history and yell stop.”
Murphy told reporters on Thursday that he would like to get 10 Republican votes to pass a bill so he’s not looking for a quick vote on gun-control legislation that would likely break down along party lines and fail. “Right now, my focus is on getting a result so I’m not ready to take this to the electorate. I would like to find a path forward with Republicans and Democrats in the next week or so and if we fail—and we failed before—then certainly this ultimately becomes a choice for the voters,” he said.
Murphy’s home-state colleague, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), however, is ready to put Republican senators—and even Democratic moderates—on the record by bringing legislation to the floor for a vote. “We need to move forward. Democrats have a number of realistic sensible proposals to stop this needless senseless violence. I’m very hopeful that we’ll come together. All we’ve heard from Republicans is negative. But we have an obligation to act. To put our colleagues on record,” he said.
Blumenthal also suggested the Senate skip the Memorial Day recess to get a bill ready for the floor. “I think we need to move forward as quickly as possible,” he said. “Put people on the record and Americans have the right to know where we stand on stopping gun violence and we are going to do it as quickly as practically possible.”