Senate Democrats to try to force gun debate next month

Senate Democrats to try to force gun debate next month
© Greg Nash

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerTrump touts Turkey cease-fire: 'Sometimes you have to let them fight' Mattis responds to Trump criticism: 'I guess I'm the Meryl Streep of generals' Democrats vow to push for repeal of other Trump rules after loss on power plant rollback MORE (D-N.Y.) said Democrats will try to force action on gun control next month, though he appeared skeptical that they could tie the issue to the March government funding bill.

"There will be huge rallies and demonstrations on the 24th. They expect millions of people to come to Washington ... and we will try to force floor action after that rally, when our Republican friends see they are just against the nation," Schumer told reporters on Tuesday.

Schumer didn't specify what actions Democrats will take. They could, for example, try to force votes on expanded background check or gun-related legislation, but they would need the consent of every senator. 

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A spokesman pointed to comments Schumer made on the floor, where the Democratic leader urged the Senate to have a larger debate that addressed requiring background checks for guns sold over the internet and at gun shows, allowing court orders to temporarily block someone deemed dangerous from getting a gun, and a ban on assault weapons.

"This needs a national debate, it’s the issue that’s consuming America. And for the Senate to turn its back and do nothing and try to just slip some minor measure through that doesn’t work," Schumer said from the Senate floor on Monday.

The "March for Our Lives" rally — planned in response to the Parkland, Fla., high school shooting — is scheduled to take place in D.C. and around the country on March 24.

The Senate, however, is currently scheduled to leave for a two-week recess on March 23. That means Democrats' floor tactics would be delayed until the Senate returns on April 9.

It would also push the looming floor battle past the March 23 deadline to fund the government or spark the third government shutdown of the year. Republicans will need help from Democrats to break a filibuster, and could need to lean on them in the House if conservatives don't support the spending bill.

Pressed on getting gun control measures in the omnibus, Schumer said he believes it is unlikely given GOP opposition to expanded background checks and the broader measures backed by Democrats.

"I think that we believe that this march would have a huge effect. If we can figure out a way to do something real before that, great, but knowing where [Senate Majority Leader Mitch] McConnell is and [Speaker Paul] Ryan is I think the omnibus is not going to be the way," he said.

He added that Democrats will need Republicans "to go around" GOP leadership "and on the omnibus they are who we are negotiating with."

The House is expected to vote on a school safety proposal next week, while the gun control battle has largely stalled in the Senate.

The White House has sent mixed messages about what specifically the president will support and Republicans balked after Trump appeared to embrace Democratic proposals during last week's freewheeling White House meeting.

Senators have introduced a flurry of new bills following the Parkland, Fla., shooting, where 17 people were killed. But none yet have the 60 votes needed to break a filibuster in the chamber.

Sen. John CornynJohn CornynTrump slams 'very dumb' O'Rourke for proposals on guns, tax exempt status for churches GOP cautions Graham against hauling Biden before Senate Succession at DHS up in the air as Trump set to nominate new head MORE (R-Texas) blamed Democrats earlier Tuesday for holding up the Fix NICS (National Instant Criminal Background Check System) Act, which would reinforce existing laws by ensuring that authorities report criminal records to the system and penalizing agencies that don't.

Democrats, while supportive of the bill, believe it is too narrow.

Several Republicans have also raised "due process concerns" with the legislation.