McConnell: Gun background checks will be 'front and center' in Senate debate

McConnell: Gun background checks will be 'front and center' in Senate debate
© Greg Nash
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTrump urges GOP to fight for him Senate Dems signal they'll support domestic spending package Trump's top picks for Homeland Security chief are ineligible for job: reports MORE (R-Ky.) predicted Thursday that gun background checks and so-called red flag laws would be "front and center" in the chamber's upcoming debate on gun-related legislation. 
 
"The discussion is focusing on two things: One is these red flag warnings. … There's also been some discussion about background checks," McConnell told Kentucky radio station WHAS during an interview on Thursday. 
 
When the radio host noted that expanding background checks is supported by roughly 90 percent of Americans, McConnell acknowledged that "there's a lot of support for that." 
 
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"There's a bipartisan bill in the Senate, Pat ToomeyPatrick (Pat) Joseph ToomeyNSA improperly collected US phone records in October, new documents show Overnight Defense: Pick for South Korean envoy splits with Trump on nuclear threat | McCain blasts move to suspend Korean military exercises | White House defends Trump salute of North Korean general WH backpedals on Trump's 'due process' remark on guns MORE of Pennsylvania, a Republican, and Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinOvernight Energy: Perry to step down as Energy secretary | Future of big-game hunting council up in the air | Dems lose vote against EPA power plant rule Senate Dems lose forced vote against EPA power plant rule Schumer seeks focus on health care amid impeachment fever MORE of West Virginia, a Democrat, so those are two items that for sure will be front and center as we see what we can come together on and pass," McConnell added. 
 
McConnell did not say whether he supports expanding background checks or that he would give a bill that expands background checks a vote as part of the Senate's upcoming debate. 
 
The Senate has been a consistent roadblock to expanding background checks after a failed 2013 vote on the Manchin-Toomey proposal. Senators voted 54-46 on the proposal, falling short of the 60 vote threshold.
 
 
McConnell predicted on Thursday that other issues, including questions about assault weapons, would also likely come up.
 
"That will probably be discussed as well. We had that ban for about a 10-year period," he said. "Background checks and red flags would probably lead the discussion, but a lot of other things will come up as well. What we can't do is fail to pass something." 
 
McConnell is facing intense pressure from Democrats to bring the Senate back into session during the August recess to vote on a House-passed bill, which would go further than Manchin-Toomey by implementing universal background checks. 
 
That bill has no chance of passing the Senate after clearing the House with the support of eight Republicans. The Senate's companion bill has 42 co-sponsors, none of whom are Republicans. 
 
McConnell rejected calls on Thursday to bring the chamber back, saying senators and their staffs would use the five-week break to discuss what can pass the Senate. 
 
"We're going to begin the discussions during the August break and when we get back hopefully we'll be in a position to agree on things on a bipartisan basis and go forward and make a law," he said.