Dems link votes on spending bill to allowing gun violence research

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A top House Democrat suggested Thursday that the party's support for a year-end government spending bill will hinge on Republicans' willingness to end a decades-old ban on nearly all federal research into gun violence.

Democrats are demanding that the omnibus spending bill eliminate a provision that blocks the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from looking into firearm incidents. Language keeping the CDC from doing the research has been included in annual funding bills for years.

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Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.), a former chairman of the House Democratic campaign committee who is close to leadership, said Republicans would need to end the ban to guarantee Democratic votes on the omnibus.

He vowed to oppose any bill that kept the provision.

“If [the government’s] budget does not allow the CDC to compile that data, that information, so we can figure out how to more effectively address the public safety-requirements of the American people, then — I'm speaking for myself — it's a budget not worth voting for,” Israel told reporters.

Republicans will almost certainly need Democratic votes in the House to pass the spending measure, and negotiations have been taking place for weeks.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who has been discussing the omnibus with Speaker Paul RyanPaul RyanClinton maps out first 100 days Why a bill about catfish will show whether Ryan's serious about regulatory reform Trump is right about one thing MORE (R-Wis.), stopped short of an ultimatum in her own comments earlier on Thursday.

“We must insist that we cannot have a bill leave the station that still has that ban in it,” Pelosi told a crowded room of gun control supporters.

When asked if Democrats would refuse to sign the spending bill that includes the gun research limits, however, Pelosi replied: “What we're saying, this is a priority for us."

Israel, with Pelosi at his side, appeared to harden the tone of negotiations at the Democratic leadership briefing later that afternoon.

“With respect to the omnibus,” Israel said, “the leader [Pelosi] has made her position clear, and it reflects the position of the caucus. If they want ...

Democratic votes on a budget, that budget must allow the federal government to do the research that's required to keep the American people safe,” Israel said.

Democrats have renewed their focused on gun control after string of mass shootings this fall.

GOP leaders are almost certain to reject Pelosi’s demand to eliminate the 17-year-old provision, which has been included in budget bills since 1997 after fierce lobbying from groups such as the National Rifle Association. Gun rights supporters have long claimed that government agencies use studies to advance gun control, something researchers deny.

President Obama announced an executive order allowing the research to resume in 2013, though Democrats have for years failed to repeal the funding provision, even when they were in the majority in Congress.

When asked about nixing the budget's gun research amendment at a press briefing in October, Pelosi acknowledged it was a nearly impossible feat.

“I don’t know if it’s possible.  We are not in the majority. I don’t know if it’s possible to get the Dickey Legislation out of the bill, I’ll be very honest with you,” Pelosi told reporters on Oct. 8.

The lead sponsor of the original provision, outspoken conservative Rep. Jay Dickey (R-Ark.), recently told congressional leaders that he regrets his efforts to create that ban since leaving Congress in 2001.  

Ryan declined to say Thursday whether he would support a repeal of the provision. Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), whose House Appropriations Committee controls the government’s health spending, implied that it would be a nonstarter.  

“No, I don’t think that’s going to be something that there’s much movement on,” Cole told The Hill on Thursday.