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 GrassleyThe Hill's Morning Report - Fight night: Trump, Biden hurl insults in nasty debate GOP seeks to redirect criticism over Trump tax returns Grassley says disclosing Trump's tax records without authorization could violate law 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.

ADVERTISEMENT

GOP Sens. Mark KirkMark Steven KirkLiberal veterans group urges Biden to name Duckworth VP On the Trail: Senate GOP hopefuls tie themselves to Trump Biden campaign releases video to explain 'what really happened in Ukraine' MORE (Ill.) and Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerSenate Democrats want to avoid Kavanaugh 2.0 Breaking the Chinese space addiction Trump dumbfounds GOP with latest unforced error MORE (Colo.) voted against moving forward with Grassley's proposal. Democratic Sen. Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyThe Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by JobsOhio - Showdown: Trump-Biden debate likely to be nasty Senate Democrats want to avoid Kavanaugh 2.0 Trump taps Amy Coney Barrett for Supreme Court, setting up confirmation sprint 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 McConnellGOP senators pan debate: 'S---show,' 'awful,' 'embarrassment' 'One more serious try' on COVID-19 relief yields progress but no deal The Hill's Campaign Report: Debate fallout l Trump clarifies remarks on Proud Boys l Down to the wire in South Carolina 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 MurphyRomney, Murphy 'extremely concerned' about threats to withdraw from US Embassy in Baghdad GOP online donor platform offering supporters 'Notorious A.C.B.' shirts Democratic senator calls for 'more flexible' medical supply chain to counter pandemics MORE (D-Conn.), who led a recent unofficial filibuster on gun control.

Grassley and Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzGrassley says disclosing Trump's tax records without authorization could violate law Supreme Court nominee gives no clues in GOP meeting Barrett to sit with McConnell and other GOP senators in back-to-back meetings 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 SchumerChuck SchumerFirst woman sentenced for her role in Nxivm sex cult Ocasio-Cortez calls Trump a 'white supremacist' after debate Democrats rip Trump for not condemning white supremacists, Proud Boys at debate 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 AyotteBottom line Bottom line Bottom Line 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) ManchinManchin: Trump's West Virginia ballot fraud claim 'just plain wrong' Senate Democrats want to avoid Kavanaugh 2.0 Energy innovation bill can deliver jobs and climate progress MORE (D-W.Va.) in 2013, blasted his colleagues for “talking past each other.”

Manchin, Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampThe Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by JobsOhio - Showdown: Trump-Biden debate likely to be nasty Senate Democrats want to avoid Kavanaugh 2.0 Harris faces pivotal moment with Supreme Court battle MORE (D-N.D.) and Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterSenate Democrats want to avoid Kavanaugh 2.0 OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Court removes Pendley from role as public lands chief | Pendley court ruling could unravel Trump's public lands decisions | 1 in 4 adults cite climate change in decision not to have children Pendley court ruling could unravel Trump's public lands decisions 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 BoxerThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden, Harris launch Trump offensive in first joint appearance Bottom line Polls show big bounce to Biden ahead of Super Tuesday MORE (D-Calif.) said ahead of Monday’s vote.