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Senate votes down closing ‘terror loophole’

Greg Nash

Senators rejected dueling proposals on blocking suspected terrorists from being able to buy a gun Monday, approximately a week after the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.

Both proposals, from Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) respectively, fell short of getting the 60 votes needed to move forward. Senators also rejected two background check measures — also offered as amendments to a commerce, justice and science appropriations bill — earlier Monday.

{mosads}Democrats backed a proposal from Feinstein, which failed in a 47-53 vote.

Feinstein’s amendment would have allowed the attorney general to block the sale of a gun or explosive if there’s a “reasonable suspicion” an individual has or will be involved in a terrorist attack. It would allow the attorney general to block the sale of a gun to anyone under a terror investigation in the past five years.

Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) praised the Democratic proposal earlier Monday, saying it would “close the terror loophole which allows suspected terrorists to illegally purchase weapons and explosives.”

Reid also blasted Republicans, saying they “need to put the lives of innocent Americans ahead of the NRA.”

Sens. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), both of whom are up for reelection this year, voted with Democrats in favor of the amendment. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.) was the only Democrat to vote against it.

Republicans argue the Democratic measure is too broad and would harm Americans who aren’t tied to terrorism.

“We all agree that terrorists should not be able to purchase a weapon. That is not up for debate. Anybody who suggests that it is is simply misleading,” Cornyn said ahead of the vote. “The question before us is whether we’re going to do so in a way that’s constitutional.”

His own measure, which failed 53-47, would have allowed the attorney general to delay suspected terrorists from obtaining a gun for up to 72 hours to give the Justice Department time to investigate the prospective buyers and secure a court order to stop the transfer.

Any person investigated for possible terrorist ties within the past five years could be delayed from acquiring a firearm. The provision was added after gunman Omar Mateen — previously on a federal watchlist — killed 49 people and injured 53 others in a packed gay nightclub in Orlando.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) urged senators to support Cornyn’s measure, saying Democrats should resist pushing “a partisan agenda or [crafting] the next 30-second campaign ad.”

“We’ve offered proposals to help connect the dots with respect to terrorist communications. We’ve offered proposals to help address the threat of lone wolf attacks like the one we saw in Orlando,” he said.

But Democrats, and some Republicans, largely rejected the Texas senator’s proposal, arguing it would tie the hands of the federal government during terrorism cases. Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) and Joe Donnelly (Ind.) voted for Cornyn’s proposal, while GOP Sens. Susan Collins (Maine), Jeff Flake (Ariz.) and Kirk voted against it.

Tags Dianne Feinstein Harry Reid Heidi Heitkamp Jeff Flake Joe Donnelly Joe Manchin John Cornyn Kelly Ayotte Mark Kirk Mitch McConnell Susan Collins

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