by Alan Fram | The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday announced his support for his chamber’s emerging bipartisan gun deal, boosting the momentum for modest but notable election-year action by Congress on an issue that spanned three decades. There are stalemate MPs.
The Kentucky Republican said he expects an outline of the agreement released Sunday by 10 Democrats and 10 Republicans to be translated into law and enacted. McConnell’s support was the latest sign that last month’s gun homicides in Buffalo, New York and Uvalde, Texas, had reconfigured the political calculations for some in the GOP, after years of relentlessly opposing firearms curbs.
“If this framework becomes a de facto piece of legislation, it is a step forward, on a bipartisan basis,” McConnell told reporters. He said the resolution “shows forward to the American people” that lawmakers can work together “to make progress for the country” on important issues.
McConnell’s comments were striking, coming five months before the midterm election, in which Republicans hope to gain control of the Senate and hold a majority in the House. For years, GOP candidates could risk their careers by defying the views of party loyalist gunmen and rural voters who oppose moves they see as a threat to their ownership and use of firearms. McConnell suggested that backing this gun measure would not doom the prospects of some Republicans in November. Although he said senators should take a position “based on the views of their states,” he said Sen. John Cornyn, the chief architect of the deal, presented GOP voting data at a closed-door senators’ lunch. The provisions of the agreement are “off the charts, heavily” among gun-owners.
The scheme would make juvenile records of first-time gun buyers under the age of 21 part of the required background checks. The money would be sent to states for mental health and school safety programs and for incentives to enforce local “red flag” laws that would have allowed officials to win court approval to temporarily remove guns from people deemed dangerous. Huh.
Senators and aides hope to translate their broad agreement into law in a few days, hoping Congress can approve it before it goes for the July 4 recess. Both sides acknowledge that this is a difficult process that can lead to disputes and delays.
Some Republicans expressed unhappiness with the plan on Tuesday, drawing much criticism aimed at encouraging “red flag” laws. Nineteen states are mostly dominated by Democrats and the District of Columbia, but Republicans have blocked efforts in Congress to pass federal legislation on the subject.
“If we’re not going to pass a federal red flag law, and we shouldn’t, why would we encourage states to do something we think is a bad idea?” Sen. Kevin Cramer, RN.D.
A final agreement on the composite law will be expected to receive solid support from Democrats. But it would need at least 10 GOP votes to reach the Senate’s usual 60 vote limit, and McConnell’s praise raised hopes that Republican support would extend beyond that.
Approval is likely by the Democratic-run House, where Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has praised the measure as a first step toward stronger restrictions in the future.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D.N.Y., said he will determine votes on the legislation as soon as it is ready. He compared the progress of recent days to the failure of Congress to act in the aftermath of the parade of mass shootings in recent decades.
“After Uvalde and Buffalo, maybe this timing may be different. For many senators on both sides, this debate certainly feels different,” Schumer said.
Congress’s last major weapon was the Assault Weapons Ban, which took effect in 1994 but ended 10 years later.