Senate rejects gun control background check measures
© Greg Nash

Senators rejected two gun background proposals Monday evening largely along party lines just over a week after the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.

Senators voted 53-47 on a proposal from Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyWife of 'Glow' director writes 'Stop Kavanaugh' on her arm for Emmy Awards Grassley agrees to second Kavanaugh hearing after GOP members revolt Murkowski echoes calls for Kavanaugh, accuser to testify MORE (R-Iowa) that would reauthorize funding for the National Criminal Instant Background Check System (NICS) and incentivize states to share mental health records with the federal system.

But 60 votes were needed to move forward with the proposal.

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GOP Sens. Mark KirkMark Steven KirkThis week: Trump heads to Capitol Hill Trump attending Senate GOP lunch Tuesday High stakes as Trump heads to Hill MORE (Ill.) and Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerSome employees' personal data revealed in State Department email breach: report Colorado governor sets up federal PAC before potential 2020 campaign Hillicon Valley: Trump signs off on sanctions for election meddlers | Russian hacker pleads guilty over botnet | Reddit bans QAnon forum | FCC delays review of T-Mobile, Sprint merger | EU approves controversial copyright law MORE (Colo.) voted against moving forward with Grassley's proposal. Democratic Sen. Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyKavanaugh becomes September surprise for midterm candidates Kavanaugh, accuser to testify publicly on Monday Kavanaugh furor intensifies as calls for new testimony grow MORE (Ind.) supported it.

The Grassley proposal would also have cracked down on preventing government agencies from selling guns to criminals as part of undercover sting operations such as Operation Fast and Furious, in which guns were sold to suspected gun traffickers, unless top Department of Justice officials sign off that “sufficient safeguards” are in place.

“Unlike Senator Grassley’s proposal, the Democratic alternative would not help prevent failed gun operations like Fast and Furious,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMurkowski echoes calls for Kavanaugh, accuser to testify McConnell rips Democrats for handling of Kavanaugh nomination Kavanaugh furor intensifies as calls for new testimony grow MORE (R-Ky.) said. “Unlike Senator Grassley’s proposal, it would not require the Department of Justice to explain why it has not been using gun laws on the books to prosecute cases.”

But Democrats resoundingly rejected the GOP background check measure, arguing it would do little to make sure potential criminals or terrorists couldn’t buy a gun.

“It’s a shield for members who don’t want to do the right thing,” said Sen. Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphySituation in Yemen should lead us to return to a constitutional foreign policy Overnight Defense: Biden honors McCain at Phoenix memorial service | US considers sending captured ISIS fighters to Gitmo and Iraq | Senators press Trump on ending Yemen civil war Senators press Trump administration on Yemen civil war MORE (D-Conn.), who led a recent unofficial filibuster on gun control.

Grassley and Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzGrassley agrees to second Kavanaugh hearing after GOP members revolt FEC: Cruz campaign didn't violate rules with fundraising letter labeled ‘summons’ Cruz criticizes O'Rourke on Dallas shooting: Wish he wasn't 'so quick to always blame the police officer' MORE (R-Texas) offered a similar proposal during the Senate’s 2013 gun control debate, but it also largely fell along party lines.

Instead, Democrats largely backed a measure from Sens. Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerDemocrats should end their hypocrisy when it comes to Kavanaugh and the judiciary Celebrities back both Cuomo and Nixon as New Yorkers head to primary vote Dems launch million digital ad buy in top Senate races MORE (D-N.Y.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Murphy that would require a background check for most sales or transfers of guns.

But that measure, which also needed 60 votes, failed in a 44-56 vote.

Democrats have pledged for months to push for expanding background checks in the wake of recent high-profile shootings, but their effort faces an uphill battle in a GOP-controlled Congress.

“The Murphy legislation is very broad ... and I think that there are concerns about it,” Sen. Kelly AyotteKelly Ann AyottePallbearers, speakers announced for McCain's DC memorial service and Capitol ceremony Tributes pour in for John McCain Ayotte: I hope McCain's death is a 'calling for more decency, integrity and honor in our politics' MORE (R-N.H.) told reporters Monday when asked about the proposal. “I’ve previously said that I think it’s important to fix the current system.”

Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), noting that the Democrats’ proposal went further than legislation he authored with Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinKavanaugh becomes September surprise for midterm candidates Kavanaugh, accuser to testify publicly on Monday Kavanaugh furor intensifies as calls for new testimony grow MORE (D-W.Va.) in 2013, blasted his colleagues for “talking past each other.”

Manchin, Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampKavanaugh becomes September surprise for midterm candidates Kavanaugh, accuser to testify publicly on Monday Kavanaugh furor intensifies as calls for new testimony grow MORE (D-N.D.) and Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterCBS Poll: Missouri, Montana Senate races in dead heats Dems play waiting game with Collins and Murkowski Watchdog groups to file complaint against Montana candidate alleging coordination with NRA MORE (D-Mont.) voted against moving forward with the proposal. Sen. Mark Kirk (Ill.), considered the most vulnerable GOP incumbent up in November, supported it.

Both of the measures were widely expected to fall short Monday. Senators also voted on two proposals to block suspected terrorists from buying guns, which both also failed.

All of the proposals are being offered as amendments to the commerce, justice and science appropriations bill.

“Today’s votes would never have occurred were it not for the loud voices of the American people echoing through the halls of the Capitol last week,” Murphy said in statement. "After the deadliest shooting in American history, Senate Republicans weren’t even going to discuss, let alone vote on, measures to stop this endless mass murder enveloping our country.”

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) urged support for the Democrats’ proposal ahead of Monday’s vote, saying it would let the background check system work “in the only rational way it should, requiring everyone purchasing a firearm to undergo a background check.”

“That background check process is necessary for any terrorist list to be effectively implemented because otherwise there would be no way of knowing whether someone is on such a list,” he added.

The Democratic bill would also require the attorney general to develop a plan to make sure records are shared electronically with the NICS and would incrementally increase penalties against states that do not comply.

Democrats on Monday dismissed Grassley’s new measure, arguing it wouldn't strengthen the background check system.

“When you look at the bottom line of their proposals, they essentially do nothing,” Sen. Barbara BoxerBarbara Levy BoxerKamala Harris on 2020 presidential bid: ‘I’m not ruling it out’ The ‘bang for the buck’ theory fueling Trump’s infrastructure plan Kamala Harris endorses Gavin Newsom for California governor MORE (D-Calif.) said ahead of Monday’s vote.