On March 11, the House passed the “Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2021,” otherwise known as HR 8, a bill that would require a background check for every U.S. firearm sale.
Afterward, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer told reporters, “When they sent it over to us last time, it went into [then-Senate Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell’s legislative graveyard. The legislative graveyard is over. HR 8 will be on the floor of the Senate and we will see where everybody stands.
“No more hopes and prayers, thoughts and prayers — a vote is what we need.”
The New York Democrat’s plan to take up this legislation in the Senate, however, was thwarted last week after three key senators spoke out against it: Democrats Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Jon Tester of Montana and Republican Susan Collins of Maine.
The Washington Free Beacon’s Stephen Gutowski reported Monday that he had spoken with several key Senate aides who agreed that the restrictions in the bill were “dead on arrival” in the Senate.
Particularly objectionable, he said, was the “requirement that licensed gun dealers perform background checks nearly every time someone sells or even lends a gun to another person,” a provision that a senior GOP aide said is a “non-starter.”
An aide to Republican Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania told Gutowski that HR 8 “is just dead on arrival. Period. It doesn’t have the votes. Not only does it not have the votes quietly, it doesn’t have the votes loudly because Manchin and Toomey are out there opposing it.”
The aide said that “Senator Toomey is not interested in playing political games or being an example in a background check exercise. He’s interested in achieving an actual outcome.”
According to these aides, there has been speculation that Democrats may “revive a bipartisan 2013 bill that would only apply background checks to private sales.” Toomey had been a co-sponsor of this bill and “played a leading role in selling the policy to voters and fellow senators,” including four Republicans, Gutowski wrote.
The bill did not receive the 60 votes required for passage. The aide said of Toomey, “He’s interested in a consensus product, he’s not interested in political theater. He’s not interested in helping lead a project that’s just ultimately doomed to fail.”
Toomey, considered a swing vote, was one of seven Republican senators who voted to convict former President Donald Trump in his February impeachment trial.
Other staffers with whom Gutowski spoke were not convinced that the Senate could reach an agreement on the 2013 bill. If the filibuster remains in place, any gun control legislation would require 60 votes for passage.
On Thursday, Sen. Chris Murphy, a Democrat from Connecticut, said he and Schumer will “spend the next several weeks working with both Democrats and Republicans in the Senate to try to craft the strongest background checks bill that can pass.”
In a Sunday interview with NBC News’ Chuck Todd, Murphy said, “I am not interested in getting 50 votes in the Senate. I am interested in getting 60 votes.”
Murphy: “I am not interested in getting 50 votes in the Senate. I am interested in getting 60 votes.” pic.twitter.com/S8lbJ7l0XM
— Meet the Press (@MeetThePress) March 28, 2021
Schumer’s position is far less accommodating than Murphy’s. On Thursday, he told reporters, “We will try to work with our Republican colleagues on a bipartisan basis when and where we can. But if they choose to obstruct, rather than work with us to deliver for American families, we must make progress nonetheless. Failure is not an option.”
One GOP staffer told Gutowski that the passage of any gun control legislation really depends on Schumer’s willingness to compromise.
“Does Schumer want to actually come to the table and talk about stricter enforcement on straw purchases?” the aide said. “Does he want to talk about some of the gun restraining order proposals that had strong due process checks in them? Or does he just want to keep trying to run up against the filibuster and score political points?”
For the uber-partisan Schumer, I’m afraid it’s only the latter.
The resistance of Manchin, Tester and Collins was a big win for Republicans. Although seven House Republicans voted for HR 8, it’s difficult to imagine there would be sufficient Republican support in the Senate to get to 60 votes.
The checks and balances have saved us — for now. While this is good news, especially in the short run, this isn’t the end. Democrats will never give up the fight to take away our gun rights.
God help us if the Democrats manage to end the filibuster.
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