Republican leaders are facing a dearth of options in the wake of the deadliest mass shooting in American history and the bloodiest terror attack on U.S. soil since 9/11.
Instead of racing to pass new legislation, the House is trying to repackage a slate of bills it has already passed in an effort to pressure lawmakers in the Senate to follow suit.
White House officials did not request new legislative tools during a 90-minute classified briefing with the full House on Tuesday. And lawmakers have yet to coalesce around any new proposals that aren’t destined to fall along sharp partisan lines.
“The point is, the House has passed a number of things in this area,” Rep Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), the head of the House Armed Services Committee, told reporters following the Tuesday afternoon briefing.
“But of course as we learn more details about this incident — as things are learned there may well be additional steps, additional legislation that we take.”
The investigation is still early, and many details about the early Sunday morning shooting remain unclear.
But Capitol Hill has rallied around specific responses in the past — such as new restrictions on foreigners’ ability to enter the U.S. without a visa implemented following last year’s terror attack in Paris — whereas the response seems more limited now.
Earlier Tuesday, GOP leaders said that they would rearrange the House’s calendar to repackage nine anti-terror bills that have already passed in recent weeks and months but which remain unmoved in the Senate.
“These are large bipartisan bills. These are ones that can help fight what is going on around the world and now within our own country,” House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said on Tuesday. “For the sake of those innocent individuals we have to make sure that it does not happen again and that we’re best prepared to fight.”
McCarthy said later in the day that he was “working with the Senate” to try and get the bills adopted in the upper chamber. In particular, he pointed to three bills that would use former extremists’ testimonials in anti-recruitment campaigns, reform the process for issuing terrorism alerts and help local fusion centers with anti-radicalization strategies.
A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGOP should grab the chance to upend Pelosi's plan on reconciliation We don't need platinum to solve the debt ceiling crisis The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Democrats argue price before policy amid scramble MORE (R-Ky.) confirmed that his office is reviewing the effort but declined to offer a timeline for action.
Democrats and President Obama have turned to gun laws and said that access to firearms ought to be tightened in the wake of the shooting.
The killer, Omar Mateen, was previously known to federal officials and had once appeared on a terror watch list; he was removed when an investigation into comments he had made to coworkers closed in 2014.
Even if Mateen had been on the list, he would still have been able to buy the firearms.
“Given some of the radical statements that have been reported in the past, the purchase of that kind of weapon would, at least for many of us, have set off an alarm bell,” Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffJan. 6 panel subpoenas four ex-Trump aides Bannon, Meadows Schiff: Criminal contempt charges possible for noncooperation in Jan. 6 probe The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Biden jumps into frenzied Dem spending talks MORE (Calif.), the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, told reporters following Tuesday afternoon’s briefing.
“Why would we not consider additional measures that would make these terrorist attacks less lethal?”
The stance has inflamed Republicans, who see the issue as totally unrelated.
“I find it just despicable that the president wants to use a terrorist act to somehow promote his agenda on a completely different issue,” said Rep. Trent FranksHarold (Trent) Trent FranksOn The Trail: Arizona is microcosm of battle for the GOP Arizona New Members 2019 Cook shifts 8 House races toward Dems MORE (R-Ariz.).
“The partisan solutions aren’t working,” added Rep. David Jolly (R-Fla.), who left the briefing after roughly 30 minutes because he claimed it was “devolving into politics.”
“The first question was about gun control,” he added.
Jolly, who is running for the Senate, said that he would “soon” be releasing a bill prohibiting people on the federal no-fly list from being able to buy firearms but giving them a route to appeal the listing and denial.
“I’m not going to list it before we reach consensus,” he said.
“We can get there together. Nobody on the no-fly list should be able to buy a gun, but you shouldn’t be on the no-fly list without due process.”
In the absence of new legislation, Republicans are taking aim at the Obama administration, which they claim has failed to adequately uproot the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) from its self-proclaimed caliphate in the Middle East.
Obama “can’t seem to put the golf club down and come off the golf course and engage ISIS where we need to engage them,” Franks yelled.
Authorities say Mateen pledged allegiance to ISIS before being gunned down by police early Sunday morning.
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said on Tuesday that he had “self-radicalized” and that there was “no evidence” that he was part of a larger network active in the U.S.
“This is the environment we’re in, where we have to cope with terrorist-directed attacks — the prospect of terrorist-directed attacks, the prospect of a terrorist-inspired attack from a homegrown violent extremist,” Johnson told reporters.
But as for new legislation, Johnson’s advice was limited.
“There’s always a role for Congress to play in ensuring that our Homeland Security efforts are adequately funded,” he said.