Senate Republicans on Thursday rejected an amendment to the ObamaCare repeal bill that would have tied it to a separate fight on blocking suspected or known terrorists from being able to buy guns.
Senators voted 45-54 on procedural hurdle for the measure from Sen. Dianne Feinstein.
The California Democrat’s proposal, which she has also introduced as a separate piece of legislation, would allow the attorney general to block the sale or transfer of a gun or explosive to a suspected or known terrorist if the individual is believed to use the weapons in an act of terrorism.
Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) broke rank and voted against moving forward with Feinstein’s amendment, while Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) voted with Democrats.
Speaking to reporters earlier Thursday, Feinstein called her amendment “the definition of a no-brainer.”
She underscored the bipartisan support behind the proposal, pointing out that a House Republican has introduced a similar bill and the idea was initially backed by the Bush administration’s Department of Justice in 2007.
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), however, suggested that Feinstein’s amendment would strip Americans of due process.
“This is not the way we’re supposed to do things in this country,” he said ahead of the vote.
Senators rejected an amendment from Cornyn by a 55-44 vote. The Texan’s proposal would have allowed the attorney general to delay suspected terrorists from getting a gun for up to 72 hours as they try to get a court to approve blocking the sale of the firearm.
The transfer of the gun would be blocked if a court determines that the person wanting to buy the gun has committed or will commit an act of terrorism.
“If you believe the federal government is omniscient and all competent vote for the Feinstein amendment,” Cornyn added ahead of the votes, noting that the late Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) was on a terror watch list.
Democratic Sens. Joe Donnelly (Ind.) and Joe Manchin (W.Va.) voted to move forward with Cornyn’s proposal. Kirk voted against the amendment on the procedural hurdle.
Cornyn’s proposal would have also restricted funding to “sanctuary cities,” or those who don’t comply with federal immigration law.
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) suggested that Cornyn’s plan would only delay a suspected or known terrorist from being able to get a gun.
“This Republican amendment ties the hands of law enforcement. This amendment doesn’t stop terrorists from getting guns, it simply delays their efforts for 72 hours,” he said, adding that “if you’re on terrorists watch lists you shouldn’t be able to buy a gun.”
Senators also rejected an amendment from Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) that would have tied their 2013 background checks bill to the ObamaCare bill.
The amendment failed on a procedural hurdle by a 48-50 vote. Republican Sens. Susan Collins (Maine), Mark Kirk (Ill.), John McCain (Ariz.) and Toomey voted to move forward.
The proposal would have required background checks for sales at gun shows and online, and strengthened information-sharing between states and the national background check system.
“I recognize that enhanced background checks are not going to stop all mass shootings,” Toomey, who is facing a tough reelection race next year, said in a statement ahead of the vote. “As we have seen, many of these attacks would still have happened even if our proposal was on the books. But some tragedies, such as the mass shooting at Virginia Tech in 2007, might have been prevented.”
In another vote, senators turned down an amendment from Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) that would have increased money for mental health and prosecute felons who fail background checks. Democrats suggested that the Iowa Republican’s proposal would do little to close “loopholes” for buying a gun.
“In the 100-page amendment being offered by the senator from Iowa … the loopholes are open, and when it comes to background checks, unfortunately, this doesn’t do anything,” Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said.
– This story was updated at 7:36 p.m.