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Schumer vows quick Senate action on House gun reforms

Schumer vows quick Senate action on House gun reforms
© Greg Nash

Senate Democrats say they're ready to charge ahead on House-passed gun reforms, daring Senate Republicans to oppose legislation that's wildly popular outside the Beltway.

"The legislative graveyard is over," Senate Majority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerSenators shed masks after CDC lifts mandate Pro-tax millionaires protesting in front of Bezos's homes Student debt cancellation advocates encouraged by Biden, others remain skeptical MORE (D-N.Y.) told reporters Thursday in the Capitol. "H.R. 8 will be on the floor of the Senate, and we will see where everybody stands."

He did not say when the upper chamber would take up the bill. But Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), another prominent gun reformer, said he expects it to happen "soon." 

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"We're having hearings in the Judiciary Committee at some point in a matter of weeks," he said. "And then it will be some time, my guess is, after that." 

The proposal, which would expand background checks on gun sales, passed through the House on Thursday, shortly after the senators' comments. But it is unlikely to win enough support from Senate Republicans to overcome a GOP filibuster. 

Indeed, Republicans have long opposed any new restrictions on gun sales or ownership. When the House passed a similar background check bill in the last Congress, Sen. Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSenators shed masks after CDC lifts mandate Trump signals he's ready to get back in the game Manchin, Murkowski call for bipartisan Voting Rights Act reauthorization MORE (R-Ky.), then the majority leader, refused to consider it.

And even those who are open to expanding background screenings are already expressing concerns that the House proposal is too broad and might encroach on Second Amendment rights.

Sen. Pat ToomeyPatrick (Pat) Joseph ToomeySasse rebuked by Nebraska Republican Party over impeachment vote Philly GOP commissioner on censures: 'I would suggest they censure Republican elected officials who are lying' Toomey censured by several Pennsylvania county GOP committees over impeachment vote MORE (R-Pa.), for instance, had championed a background check bill in 2013 following the shooting massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. His office said Thursday that Toomey still supports that proposal, which he sponsored with Democratic Sen. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinSenators shed masks after CDC lifts mandate Manchin, Murkowski call for bipartisan Voting Rights Act reauthorization The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Israel-Hamas carnage worsens; Dems face SALT dilemma MORE (W.Va.), but Toomey has not taken a position on the House bill. 

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"Progress is only possible on this issue if the measure in question is narrow and protects the rights of law-abiding gun owners," spokesman Steve Kelly said in an email. 

The public's attitude toward gun reform has shifted considerably in recent years amid a long string of mass shootings at schools, churches, synagogues and music venues around the country.

A new Morning Consult-Politico poll, released Wednesday, found that 84 percent of voters support the expansion of background checks, including 77 percent of Republicans — figures consistent with other public surveys in recent years. 

Democrats are leaning on those numbers in hopes they'll convince wary Senate Republicans to reconsider their past opposition to an issue that's gaining political currency.  

"I don't think we should accept that there aren't 60 votes in the Senate," said Sen. Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyBiden's quiet diplomacy under pressure as Israel-Hamas fighting intensifies Schumer in bind over fight to overhaul elections Sweeping election reform bill faces Senate buzz saw MORE (D-Conn.), another vocal gun reform advocate, who noted that the power of the gun reform movement has grown in recent years, while the National Rifle Association has been dogged by scandal and infighting.

"We are living in a different world than 2013. So much has changed. The politics around us are fundamentally different," Murphy added. "There are a lot of Republican senators that are thinking about voting for a proposal that allows them to get right on this issue." 

It's unclear what strategy Democrats will adopt if the House-passed background check bill is defeated in the Senate. Schumer said he'll make that decision if and when the time comes. In the meantime, he wants to maximize the discomfort for Republicans ready to oppose a bill with such strong public backing.

"A vote is what we need — a vote, not thoughts and prayers — and we will see where people stand," Schumer said. "Maybe we'll get the votes, and if we don't we'll come together as a caucus and figure out how we're going to get this done. Because we have to get it done."