Democrats seize Senate floor to protest gun inaction: ‘Put up or shut up’

Getty Images
Democrats held the floor for roughly five hours on Tuesday to raise awareness about the chamber’s inaction on gun legislation after a recent spate of mass shootings. 
Democrats are trying to build pressure on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to bring up legislation. They began speaking on the floor around 5:20 p.m.; the Senate adjourned for the day just before 10:20 p.m. 
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) called out McConnell as he wrapped up the marathon of floor speeches, saying it was time to “put up or shut up.”{mosads} 
“Politicians offering their thoughts and prayers just doesn’t cut it anymore. It’s put up or shut up. Leader McConnell, Senate Republicans, what will you do?” he asked. 
“What we’re asking for is very simple. …It should be an obvious thing to do, a simple up-or-down vote on legislation, an up-or down vote on H.R. 8 let me say it again. Leader McConnell, put H.R. 8 up for a vote on the floor,” Schumer added. 

Democrats are clamoring for McConnell to bring up a universal background check bill passed by the House earlier this year with the support of eight Republican lawmakers.

But the bill is considered a non-starter in the Senate, where McConnell has warned that a piece of legislation will need Trump’s support in order to get a vote. The House bill has picked up no GOP cosponsors in the Senate and sparked a veto threat from the White House. 
McConnell on Tuesday describe lawmakers as in a “holding pattern” on potential gun reforms until they get a signal from Trump about what he will sign.

“What I would like to know is, you know, what he thinks would make some progress and he would sign. And until we get that kind of guidance, we’re in a holding pattern so to speak,” he said. 

Democrats, however, are bristling over the demand from McConnell that Trump say he would support a bill before it gets a vote in the Senate, arguing it undermines the separation of powers. 
“Let me just say that’s not actually how the Senate is supposed to operate. We’re supposed to originate the legislation. We’re supposed to be the world’s greatest deliberative body,” said Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii). 
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), who organized the Tuesday floor speeches, added that “none of us are required to get permission slips from the president before we act.” 
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) similarly knocked Republicans, arguing that they were barely moving legislation through the chamber and were instead focused on confirming various nominees put forward by Trump. 
“Week after week after week, we vote on nomination after nomination after nomination. We hardly ever debate. We hardly ever vote on legislation to address the needs that the American people say are the primary concerns in their minds,” he added.   
Democrats believe they have public momentum and polling on their side, after several recent polls have shown that most Americans support expanding background checks for gun sales. 
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) called out Sen. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.), who was presiding over the chamber at the time, during an impassioned floor speech on Tuesday. 
“This is something all of us should be caring about, especially from Arizona, where my dear friend Gabby Giffords was shot,” Gillibrand said during a heated speech that was audible from outside the Senate chamber.
But that support for new gun reforms hasn’t carried over to the Republican-controlled Senate. 

The Senate, then controlled by Democrats, previously rejected legislation in 2013 to expand background checks to all commercial sales. GOP lawmakers are wary of getting ahead of Trump on potential gun reforms, after the president signaled last year that he would support additional reforms before reversing course.

The White House is currently negotiating with senators as they try to craft gun control legislation. Murphy and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) both said on Tuesday that they were still waiting to find out if Trump would back an expansion of background checks for gun sales.

White House Legislative Affairs Director Eric Ueland said on Tuesday that representatives from the administration would be meeting with lawmakers this week at Trump’s request to try to find a bill that could clear Congress.  

Ueland and Attorney General William Barr met on Tuesday with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who has warned Trump against making a deal with Democrats.

“The president has asked us to engage with the Hill. … We continue today and throughout this week to talk with members on both sides of the aisle, both sides of the Capitol as we work through all these public policy challenges to see whether or not there’s a path forward on a legislative package in relation to mass gun violence,” he said.  

He added, “We got a lot of great input as you know. … It’s a collaborative two-way conversation.”

Updated: 11 p.m.
Tags Brian Schatz Charles Schumer Chris Murphy Debbie Stabenow Dick Durbin Donald Trump Joe Manchin Kirsten Gillibrand Martha McSally Michael Bennet Mitch McConnell Ted Cruz William Barr
See all Hill.TV See all Video

Most Popular

Load more


See all Video