McConnell vows to give gun bill a vote if it is backed by Trump

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMattis warns 'ISIS will resurge' without U.S. pressure on Syria McConnell tightlipped as impeachment furor grows Hillicon Valley: Google, Reddit to testify on tech industry protections | Trump joins Amazon-owned Twitch | House to vote on bill to combat foreign interference MORE (R-Ky.) on Tuesday stressed that President TrumpDonald John TrumpGiuliani says he is unaware of reported federal investigation Louisiana's Democratic governor forced into runoff Lawmakers focus their ire on NBA, not China MORE's support is the key to a gun reform bill getting a vote on the Senate floor in the wake of recent mass shootings.

McConnell, during an interview with radio host Hugh Hewitt, said the Trump administration “is in the process of studying what they're prepared to support, if anything.”

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“I expect to get an answer to that next week,” McConnell said. “If the president is in favor of a number of things that he has discussed openly and publicly and I know that if we pass it, it will become law, I'll put it on the floor.”

McConnell's comments underscore the political reality any push for new gun reforms faces.

Though House Democrats have already passed a background check bill and are expected to vote on additional bills as soon as next week, Republicans in the Senate are unlikely to back anything unless they get political cover from Trump. The Senate GOP is defending 22 seats this election cycle, most of those in deeply red states. 

Asked on Tuesday why he wouldn't bring the House-backed universal background check bill up for a vote, McConnell said that lawmakers and the White House were currently in a “discussion” about what action to take.

“I said several weeks ago that if the president took a position on a bill, so that we knew we would actually be making a law and not just having serial votes, I'd be happy to put it on the floor,” McConnell said.

McConnell appeared to be referring to a radio interview he did in early August, where he closed the door on bringing the Senate back early from August recess and predicted that "red flag" laws and background check legislation would be “front and center” in the debate about what, if any, gun reforms to pass. 

“The key to this honestly is making a law, not making a point. ... The way you make a law right now is that it has to pass the House, it has to get 60 votes in the Senate and it has to be signed by President Trump,” McConnell said at the time.

The Senate is scheduled to return to Washington next week, roughly a month after mass shootings in Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas, left more than 30 people dead. Seven more people were also killed in a shooting in Odessa, Texas, on Saturday.

Trump has thrown out myriad ideas since the Dayton and El Paso shootings but hasn't yet said what specific bill he would support.

The White House is also negotiating with lawmakers and has floated putting forward their own idea.

Supporters for new gun background check legislation acknowledge that Trump's support is crucial for getting the 60 votes needed for a bill to pass the Senate.  

“The sweet spot is whatever President Trump is willing to support. If President Trump endorses a background checks bill we will be able to get to 60 votes in the Senate,” Sen. Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyCongress set for showdown with Trump over Kurds Administration to give 'top secret' briefing on Syria amid pushback Senators call for Trump administration to testify on Syria MORE (D-Conn.) told The Hill last week, asked about what could pass the Senate.

Trump has, at times, appeared open to expanding background checks. But he's also thrown out ideas on mental health and red flag laws, which are intended to make it easier for law enforcement to temporarily block someone from owning a gun.  

After the shooting over the weekend in West Texas, Trump focused on mental health as a solution to prevent future mass shootings.  

“It would be wonderful to say — to say 'eliminate,' but we want to substantially reduce the violent crime — and actually, in any form. Any of its evil forms. This includes strong measures to keep weapons out of the hands of dangerous and deranged individuals, and substantial reforms to our nation's broken mental health system,” Trump said on Sunday.

He also appeared to dismiss the usefulness of background checks in preventing recent mass shootings, saying that “as strong as you make your background checks, they would not have stopped any of it.”