Cornyn: Mental health vote will likely have to wait until after election

Cornyn: Mental health vote will likely have to wait until after election
© Greg Nash

Sen. John CornynJohn CornynNew GOP ObamaCare repeal bill gains momentum Week ahead: Senators near deal to stabilize ObamaCare markets GOP eying 'blue slip' break to help Trump fill the courts MORE (R-Texas) said Tuesday that a Senate vote on mental health legislation will likely have to wait until after the election, despite progress on a dispute over guns. 

Asked if he thought a vote was more likely after the election, Cornyn said, “I do.”

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“I think we've made a lot of progress,” Cornyn, the Senate’s No. 2 Republican, told The Hill. “[I] know that what the leader would want to see would be some agreement to pass the bill with a time agreement, with a limitation on amendments and the like. I don't know whether that's going to be possible before the election, but it gives me some hope it might be something we could do after the election.”

Some advocates saw the recent progress in negotiations on mental health legislation as a promising sign Congress could reach an agreement before it leaves town later this month, not returning until after Election Day. But the Senate is fast running out of time before the break, and much of its energy is focused on passing a government spending bill. 

There has long been a hold-up over Cornyn's effort to attach gun-related language, already part of his own broader mental health bill, that would require a full judicial hearing to ban someone from buying guns due to mental illness. 

Democrats warned the language would make it easier for mentally ill people to get guns. 

While there have been steps forward in negotiations to overcome this dispute, Cornyn said a deal is not done yet. 

“We've made a proposal that seems to address the previous objections and avoid the gun fight that many people wanted to avoid, including me, without weakening the patient protections under the bill,” Cornyn said. 

Some of Cornyn's language has focused on protecting the due process gun rights of veterans who might be mentally ill. 

A deal could include some provisions from Cornyn that would pass Democrats' test as not being gun provisions.

Cornyn said Democrats were meeting on the proposal later on Tuesday. 

“They're meeting today to sort of see where we are, but I'm pretty optimistic,” Cornyn said.  

The underlying bill, sponsored by Sens. Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphySenate Dem: Graham-Cassidy is an 'intellectual and moral garbage truck fire' Dems call for action against Cassidy-Graham ObamaCare repeal Murphy fires back at Trump on filibuster MORE (D-Conn.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.), is not as sweeping as legislation that was originally introduced in the House, but it seeks to improve coordination of mental health programs and authorizes grants for topics like integrating physical and mental health services. 

It also seeks to strengthen enforcement of “parity” laws that require that insurance companies cover mental health services just as much as they cover physical health services.