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 GrassleyHigh stakes as Trump, Dems open drug price talks Senate approves border bill that prevents shutdown Grassley raises voice after McConnell interrupts Senate speech 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 KirkThe global reality behind 'local' problems Dems vow swift action on gun reform next year This week: Trump heads to Capitol Hill MORE (Ill.) and Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerBipartisan Senators reintroduce legislation to slap new sanctions on Russia Dems seeking path to Senate majority zero-in on Sun Belt Lawmakers eager for 5G breakthrough MORE (Colo.) voted against moving forward with Grassley's proposal. Democratic Sen. Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyOvernight Energy: Trump taps ex-oil lobbyist Bernhardt to lead Interior | Bernhardt slams Obama officials for agency's ethics issues | Head of major green group steps down Trump picks ex-oil lobbyist David Bernhardt for Interior secretary EPA's Wheeler faces grilling over rule rollbacks 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 McConnellDems ready aggressive response to Trump emergency order, as GOP splinters Green New Deal Resolution invites big picture governing ‘Contingency’ spending in 3B budget deal comes under fire 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 MurphyHouse passes bill to end US support for Saudi war in Yemen This week: Border deal remains elusive as shutdown looms Border talks stall as another shutdown looms MORE (D-Conn.), who led a recent unofficial filibuster on gun control.

Grassley and Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzPoll shows competitive matchup if O’Rourke ran for Senate again Democrats veer left as Trump cements hold on Republicans O’Rourke heading to Wisconsin amid 2020 speculation 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 SchumerNational emergency declaration — a legal fight Trump is likely to win House Judiciary Dems seek answers over Trump's national emergency declaration Mandatory E-Verify: The other border wall 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 AyotteUS, allies must stand in united opposition to Iran’s bad behavior American military superiority will fade without bold national action Five possible successors to Mattis 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) ManchinSenate confirms Trump pick William Barr as new attorney general GOP wants to pit Ocasio-Cortez against Democrats in the Senate Senate poised to confirm Trump’s attorney general pick MORE (D-W.Va.) in 2013, blasted his colleagues for “talking past each other.”

Manchin, Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampOvernight Energy: Trump taps ex-oil lobbyist Bernhardt to lead Interior | Bernhardt slams Obama officials for agency's ethics issues | Head of major green group steps down Trump picks ex-oil lobbyist David Bernhardt for Interior secretary On The Money: Shutdown Day 27 | Trump fires back at Pelosi by canceling her foreign travel | Dems blast 'petty' move | Trump also cancels delegation to Davos | House votes to disapprove of Trump lifting Russia sanction MORE (D-N.D.) and Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterHow the border deal came together GOP braces for Trump's emergency declaration Border talks stall as another shutdown looms 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 BoxerNewsom endorses Kamala Harris for president Hispanic civil rights icon endorses Harris for president California AG Becerra included in Bloomberg 50 list MORE (D-Calif.) said ahead of Monday’s vote.