Guns, Gitmo dominate Justice bill markup


In something of an annual ritual, Thursday’s full committee passage of the bill funding the Justice and Commerce departments featured heated debates over gun restrictions and how to handle prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.

The House Appropriations Committee approved the $52 billion CJS bill with only one of the contentious amendments added into the text. 

Rep. John CarterJohn Rice CarterGOP lawmaker: 'A lot of the attractive children are not making it to the border' How much collateral damage will there be in the 2018 midterms? Rep. Kristi Noem pushing for online sales tax bill in omnibus MORE’s (R-Texas) gun amendment prohibits the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) from requiring dealers in Arizona, New Mexico, California and Texas to report on the sale of multiple rifles to the same person. It was adopted in a 29 to 18 vote. 

Carter argued that lawful gun owners should not have to sacrifice their privacy to the program and the border states should not be singled out. 

Democrats were outraged at the amendment, which they said would stop a program meant to counter gang violence and mass shootings.

“I know we are enthusiastic about guns — we love these guns — but we have a responsibility to the American public,” said Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-Pa.). 

Rep. Debbie Wasserman SchultzDeborah (Debbie) Wasserman SchultzLawmakers jam with Little Big Town at Grammys on the Hill The foreign policy case for decriminalizing abortion in El Salvador Interior official compared Parkland students to Nazis: report MORE (D-Fla.) said Americans will point to the amendment when someone mows down an innocent crowd, prompting an angry Rep. David Joyce (R-Ohio) to accuse her of playing partisan “games.”

Another gun amendment by Reps. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) and David Price (D-N.Y.) aimed at preventing gun sales to individuals on the federal terrorist watch list was withdrawn after Carter offered to negotiate a compromise on it before the bill gets to the floor. 

Price noted that there are already several categories of people who cannot buy firearms.

“It is incredible that one of those categories is not suspected terrorists,” he said. 

Democrats unsuccessfully tried to remove a rider in the bill text that prevents the ATF from requiring dealers to report on their inventory. The Obama administration says the rider interferes with efforts to track down guns stolen from licensed dealers.

Debate swirled around a rider preventing implementation of the Arms Trade Treaty, signed by the Obama administration, and a funding cut to the federal COPS program as well.

On Guantanamo Bay, the committee voted down an amendment by Rep. Jim MoranJames (Jim) Patrick MoranDems face close polls in must-win Virginia Billionaire Trump donor hires lobbyists to help vets Lawmakers: Chaffetz has a point on housing stipend MORE (D-Va.) aimed at removing a restriction on the transfer of prisoners to the U.S. court system for trial. 

Full committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) spoke forcefully against allowing detainees to be transferred.

“Why reward them with American Constitutional rights when there were trying to destroy this country?” he said. 

Moran argued that America was right to grant Nazi war criminals a trial and should do so again in the case of war on terror prisoners.