Amid nationwide outrage over Tuesday’s massacre at a Texas elementary school in Uvalde, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Thursday he would not stage votes on a pair of House-passed gun control bills until after Congress returns early next month from a week-long break — showing the uphill climb any anti-gun measure faces in Congress.
In remarks on the Senate floor, Schumer (D-NY) said the delay was meant to give GOP and Democratic senators more time to craft a compromise bill, but warned “if these negotiations do not bear any fruit, the Senate will vote on gun safety legislation when we return.”
The House has already passed two bills meant to expand background checks on potential gun buyers, but Schumer initially indicated reluctance to bring them to the floor in the wake of Tuesday’s shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, which killed 19 children and two teachers.
“I believe that accountability votes are important but sadly, this isn’t a case of the American people not knowing where their senators stand,” Schumer told reporters Wednesday. “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.”
However, Schumer had no such qualms about “accountability votes” earlier this month, when he asked for the yeas and nays to open debate on a bill that expanded abortion access nationwide following the leak of a Supreme Court draft overturning Roe v. Wade. The outcome was a foregone conclusion: all 50 Senate Democrats and Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia voted against the measure.
Both the House-passed Bipartisan Background Checks Act and the Enhanced Background Check Act would meet a similar fate in the evenly-split Senate. Both measures passed the House with bipartisan support in March 2021, but have languished in the Senate.
Federal law currently requires licensed firearm sellers to conduct background checks on would-be gun owners, but does not make the same requirement for online sales or purchases at gun shows.
Gun-rights advocates and Republicans say the measure would do little to stop mass shootings, pointing out that recent massacre perpetrators bought their guns from licensed dealers — thereby passing a background check — before, in some cases, illegally modifying the weapons to perpetrate maximum bloodshed.
Similar proposed checks, such as creating a federal registry for all gun transactions and denying firearms to people placed on a terror watch list or “no-fly” list, have been decried as unconstitutional.
Gun control bills have repeatedly gone down to defeat in Congress over the past decade, largely due to failure to receive the 60 votes needed to advance in the Senate.
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) attempted to pass the Enhanced Background Check Act by unanimous consent in December following a shooting at a Michigan high school, but Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) objected, thwarting that move.
In 2013, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) attempted to pass bipartisan legislation expanding background checks following the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., but the bill came up six votes short of proceeding to debate.
Following the May 14 mass shooting at a Buffalo grocery store, Manchin said his and Toomey’s bill was “the most agreed upon” and “the most accepted in the country and we can’t even get that done.”
Toomey also expressed skepticism that the package could pass, telling the Washington Post a popular Republican president has the best chance at pushing a federal gun bill. The Pennsylvania lawmaker also revealed that the White House has not contacted him about working on potential legislation.
Elsewhere in his floor remarks, Schumer lambasted Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott as a “fraud” over his remarks following a confrontation with his Democratic election opponent Beto O’Rourke at a Wednesday news conference.
“The MAGA governor gave some empty platitudes about healing and hope. He asked people to put their agendas aside and think about someone other than themselves,” Schumer said. “Oh my God. How dare he? What an absolute fraud.”
Noting that Abbott is scheduled to speak at Friday’s National Rife Association convention in Houston, Schumer suggested the Texas governor will take the opportunity to “outline some new plan to further loosen gun restrictions.”
“No amount of bloodshed seems to be enough for MAGA Republicans,” he said, referring to former President Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan.
The Senate is scheduled to adjourn for the Memorial Day holiday and return June 6.