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 GrassleyChuck GrassleyNumber of migrants detained at southern border reaches 15-year high: reports Grassley, Cornyn push for Senate border hearing The Hill's Morning Report - GOP pounces on Biden's infrastructure plan 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 KirkDuckworth announces reelection bid Brave new world: Why we need a Senate Human Rights Commission  Senate majority battle snags Biden Cabinet hopefuls MORE (Ill.) and Cory GardnerCory GardnerBiden administration reverses Trump changes it says 'undermined' conservation program Gardner to lead new GOP super PAC ahead of midterms OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Court rules against fast-track of Trump EPA's 'secret science' rule | Bureau of Land Management exodus: Agency lost 87 percent of staff in Trump HQ relocation | GM commits to electric light duty fleet by 2035 MORE (Colo.) voted against moving forward with Grassley's proposal. Democratic Sen. Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyEverybody wants Joe Manchin Centrist Democrats pose major problem for progressives Biden and Schumer face battles with left if Democrats win big 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 McConnellHarry Reid reacts to Boehner book excerpt: 'We didn't mince words' Democrats see opportunity in GOP feud with business Biden resists calls to give hard-hit states more vaccines than others 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 MurphyPassage of FASTER Act is critical for food allergy community Sunday shows: Biden's border woes, gun control dominate Murphy, Toomey say background check bill could pass Senate MORE (D-Conn.), who led a recent unofficial filibuster on gun control.

Grassley and Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzHarry Reid reacts to Boehner book excerpt: 'We didn't mince words' GOP lawmakers block Biden assistance to Palestinians Cruz on Boehner: 'I wear with pride his drunken, bloviated scorn' 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 SchumerThe first Southern state legalizes marijuana — what it means nationally H.R. 1/S. 1: Democrats defend their majorities, not honest elections McCarthy asks FBI, CIA for briefing after two men on terror watchlist stopped at border 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 AyotteOvernight Defense: NATO expanding troops in Iraq Overnight Defense: New START extended for five years | Austin orders 'stand down' to tackle extremism | Panel recommends Biden delay Afghanistan withdrawal Study group recommends Biden delay Afghanistan withdrawal 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 ManchinJoe ManchinClose the avenues of foreign meddling Democrats see political winner in tax fight MSNBC's Joy Reid pans Manchin, Sinema as the 'no progress caucus' MORE (D-W.Va.) in 2013, blasted his colleagues for “talking past each other.”

Manchin, Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampBill Maher blasts removal of journalist at Teen Vogue Centrist Democrats pose major problem for progressives Harrison seen as front-runner to take over DNC at crucial moment MORE (D-N.D.) and Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterThe Hill's Morning Report - Biden's infrastructure plan triggers definition debate Lawmakers say fixing border crisis is Biden's job Five things to watch on Biden infrastructure plan 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 BoxerBottom line Trump administration halting imports of cotton, tomatoes from Uighur region of China Biden inaugural committee to refund former senator's donation due to foreign agent status MORE (D-Calif.) said ahead of Monday’s vote.