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Senate Democrats are asking the Appropriations Committee to look into restoring federal funding for studying gun violence.
"We must take steps to fund gun-violence research, because only the United States government is in a position to establish an integrated public-health research agenda to understand the causes of gun violence and identify the most effective strategies for prevention," 18 senators wrote in a letter to Sens. Thad CochranThad CochranLawmakers push one-week stopgap funding bill Picking 2018 candidates pits McConnell vs. GOP groups Overnight Defense: FBI chief confirms Trump campaign, Russia probe | Senators push for Afghan visas | Problems persist at veterans' suicide hotline MORE (R-Miss.) and Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), the top members on the committee, as well as Sens. Roy BluntRoy BluntUnited explains passenger removal to senators Disconnect: Trump, GOP not on same page GOP senator: There will never be full U.S.-Mexico border wall MORE (R-Mo.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.).
They want the committee's Labor, Health and Education subcommittee — overseen by Blunt and Murray — to hold a hearing on allowing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to use taxpayer dollars to study gun violence and "the annual appropriations rider that some have interpreted as preventing it."
They argue that the policy rider, which has been in every spending bill since 1996, was meant to block "lobbying" for gun control but not to stop research on gun violence.
The letter follows a failed end-of-year effort to tie getting rid of the policy rider to negotiations over a spending bill and tax package. While House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was vocal about wanting to lift the funding prohibition, the proposal went nowhere over pushback from Republicans.
The senators also want former Rep. Jay Dickey (R-Ark.), after whom the policy rider is named, to testify at the subcommittee's hearing.
The former lawmaker has suggested that he regrets the impact of what's been called the "Dickey amendment."
"I wish we had started the proper research and kept it going all this time," he told The Huffington Post in an interview last year.
The letter comes as Senate Democrats are focusing on gun control efforts in the wake of a recent spate of high-profile shootings, which the senators argue "only underscores the continued need to support peer-reviewed research."
Senate Democrats have pledged to try to move wide-ranging legislation this year, while President Obama warned his party that he would withhold support for any candidate that doesn't back "common-sense gun reforms."
The president has received criticism from some red-state Democrats, who face potentially tough reelection bids in 2018, over executive actions he announced this week to expand background checks.
The letter, released on Friday, was led by Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and signed by Democratic Sens. Tammy Baldwin (Wis.), Barbara BoxerBarbara BoxerAnother day, another dollar for retirement advice rip-offs Carly Fiorina 'certainly looking at' Virginia Senate run Top Obama adviser signs with Hollywood talent agency: report MORE (Calif.), Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), Cory Booker (N.J.), Sherrod Brown (Ohio), Tom Carper (Del.), Chris Coons (Del.), Dick Durbin (Ill.), Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.), Mazie Hirono (Hawaii), Claire McCaskill (Mo.), Chris Murphy (Conn.), Jack Reed (R.I.), Charles Schumer (N.Y.), Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) and Ron Wyden (Ore.).