Republicans waiting out Trump on gun control

Republicans waiting out Trump on gun control
© Getty

Republican lawmakers are waiting out President TrumpDonald TrumpBiden prepares to confront Putin Biden aims to bolster troubled Turkey ties in first Erdoğan meeting Senate investigation of insurrection falls short MORE in the gun control debate, counting on him to change his mind or lose interest in the ambitious proposals he endorsed Wednesday that have little support in the Senate and House GOP conferences.

Unlike during the recent tax and immigration debates, Republicans say they need to find consensus among themselves about what to do on gun violence, leaving Trump largely out of the equation. 

Senate GOP leaders are questioning the need to vote on a proposal to require background checks for firearms sold at gun shows and online. Meanwhile, Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanZaid Jilani: Paul Ryan worried about culture war distracting from issues 'that really concern him' The Memo: Marjorie Taylor Greene exposes GOP establishment's lack of power The Hill's 12:30 Report - Senators back in session after late-night hold-up MORE (R-Wis.) wants to focus on law enforcement mistakes before even discussing legislation.


The bottom line is there is little impetus among Republicans on Capitol Hill to vote on gun control legislation anytime soon, if they do so at all.

Senate Republican leaders say there’s not much point in voting for a proposal sponsored by Sens. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinPelosi: 'No intention' of abandoning Democrats' infrastructure goals Ocasio-Cortez: 'Old way of politics' influences Manchin's thinking The Memo: Democratic tensions will only get worse as left loses patience MORE (D-W.Va.) and Pat ToomeyPatrick (Pat) Joseph ToomeyBlack women look to build upon gains in coming elections Watch live: GOP senators present new infrastructure proposal Sasse rebuked by Nebraska Republican Party over impeachment vote MORE (R-Pa.) to expand background checks for gun shows and online sales, even though Trump embraced the idea this week. 

“We have voted that down before so I don’t know why we would need to have that vote again unless something’s changed,” said Senate Republican Conference Chairman John ThuneJohn Randolph Thune'The era of bipartisanship is over': Senate hits rough patch Bipartisan talks sow division among Democrats Senate passes long-delayed China bill MORE (S.D.).

Even a narrower bipartisan proposal backed by Senate Republican Whip John CornynJohn CornynRising crime rejuvenates gun control debate on campaign trail Bipartisan lawmakers want Biden to take tougher action on Nicaragua Bipartisan Senate group announces infrastructure deal MORE (Texas) and Democratic Sen. Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyDemocrats mull overhaul of sweeping election bill Rising crime rejuvenates gun control debate on campaign trail Antsy Democrats warn of infrastructure time crunch MORE (Conn.) to incentivize local and federal officials to report more information to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) is drawing strong Republican opposition. 

Republicans such as Sens. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulFauci to Chelsea Clinton: The 'phenomenal amount of hostility' I face is 'astounding' GOP's attacks on Fauci at center of pandemic message Fox host claims Fauci lied to Congress, calls for prosecution MORE (Ky.) and Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeGOP senators press Justice Department to compare protest arrests to Capitol riot Matt Stoller says cheerleading industry shows why antitrust laws are 'insufficient' Senate chaos: Johnson delays exit as votes pushed to Friday MORE (Utah) argue that proposal could deprive people of due process by blocking them from buying guns.

“I just think it ought be tightened up. I agree with Rand, I agree with Mike, I agree with Cory, I agree with a lot of others who haven’t spoken up,” Sen. John KennedyJohn Neely KennedyMORE (R-La.) said of Paul, Lee and Sen. 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 (R-Colo.).

Ryan says the House will first investigate failures by the FBI and local law enforcement to follow up on a tip about the 19-year-old suspected of killing 17 people in Parkland, Fla., last month.


“We need to get to the bottom of how these breakdowns occurred,” Ryan told reporters this week. “We’re going to be looking at the system failures.”

He downplayed the chances of passing gun control measures through the lower chamber, declaring “we shouldn’t be banning guns for private citizens.”

Some Republicans privately say they expect Trump to change his mind on gun control after he gets more feedback from Second Amendment advocates.

“Do you think he has any idea what’s in Manchin–Toomey?” a GOP lawmaker told The Hill after Trump’s Wednesday meeting at the White House. “As he gets more information he may not hold to that. What makes you think Manchin–Toomey will get more votes than it did before?”

A second Republican senator who requested anonymity said, “This is ‘Wednesday Trump.’ Who knows what we’re going to get next?”

During last month’s immigration debate, GOP lawmakers said they intended to pass legislation that the president would sign.

But they’re not making a similar pledge in the gun control debate, knowing that Trump is further to the left than most of them on the issue. 

Rep. Chris StewartChris StewartEPA administrator: We don't plan to return 'verbatim' to Obama-era water regulation On management of Utah public lands, Biden should pursue an accountable legislative process Georgia AG rejects prosecutor's request for Rayshard Brooks case to be reassigned MORE (R-Utah) told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer Friday that Congress needs to take its time to figure out how to prevent future mass shootings without infringing on Second Amendment rights.

“What we want to do is do something that will actually help. Many times in these conversations it becomes overly politicized and the suggestions are things that won’t help,” he said.

Republicans note that expanding background checks to gun shows or online sales wouldn’t have stopped the Parkland shooter from buying the AR-15 he used in the mass killing. The store that sold it to him asked him to provide identification and background information.

Officials from the National Rifle Association (NRA) pressed Trump on their views during an Oval Office meeting Thursday night.

Chris Cox, executive director of the NRA, claimed a measure of victory afterward.

“POTUS & VPOTUS support the Second Amendment, support strong due process and don’t want gun control,” he tweeted. 

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, speaking to reporters Friday, hedged on Trump’s support for universal background checks and raising the age requirement for purchasing rifles from 18 to 21.

She said the president still supports raising the age to 21 “conceptually” but qualified that stance by adding “he also knows there’s not a lot of broad support for that.”

On the subject of background checks, Sanders said the president favors “not necessarily universal background checks but certainly improving the background check system.”

This qualified position is more in line with the more limited Cornyn-Murphy bill known as Fix NICS.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellWhat the Democrats should be doing to reach true bipartisanship Democrats mull overhaul of sweeping election bill McConnell seeks to divide and conquer Democrats MORE (R-Ky.), however, has signaled he does not plan to bring even that limited legislation to the floor anytime soon, in part because Democrats are insisting on adding tougher gun control measures to it.


Instead, McConnell plans to move on to bipartisan banking reform legislation on Tuesday that will likely occupy the Senate floor all week.

Senate GOP aides say McConnell also wants to take up legislation to combat sex trafficking and an omnibus spending package before Congress leaves for its next recess on March 23.

That leaves little time to take up and debate gun legislation on the Senate floor. 

Democrats on Friday held out little hope that McConnell or Ryan would embrace the gun control proposals Trump appeared to endorse on Wednesday. 

“Leader McConnell and Speaker Ryan are so afraid of the NRA, as are most of their members, that unless the president gives them cover by saying he’s for it, it’s very hard to see getting anything else done,” Senate Democratic Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerIt's not just Manchin: No electoral mandate stalls Democrats' leftist agenda DOJ to probe Trump-era subpoenas of lawmaker records Democrats demand Barr, Sessions testify on Apple data subpoenas MORE (N.Y.) told CNN Friday.