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House to vote on school security bill next week as Senate is stuck on guns

Momentum on overhauling the country's gun laws ...

Posted: Mar. 6, 2018 12:55 PM
Updated: Mar. 6, 2018 1:07 PM

Momentum on overhauling the country's gun laws has practically stalled at the US Capitol, but the House will vote next week on a narrow proposal that will give schools more money to strengthen security.

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House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy announced Tuesday morning the chamber would hold the vote next week on the school safety bill, which will come roughly one month after a mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida, killed 17 people.

But the narrow proposal won't tackle any changes to the country's background check system nor will it address changing gun laws President Donald Trump has asked for including Trump's call to raise the age at which individuals can buy rifles from 18 to 21. Democrats have said they will vote for the proposal, but have slammed GOP leaders for not doing more.

The No. 2 House Democrat criticized House Speaker Paul Ryan for failing to bring up any measures to add more gun restrictions such as one proposal expanding background check requirements for firearm purchases.

"The fact that we can't get a bill supported by 97% of the American people on the floor is absurd," Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Maryland, said. He added that the speaker is "afraid that the majority of his caucus will vote against what 80% of the American people want. That's why they are losing. That's why they are going to lose the House in my opinion."

Across the Capitol in the Senate, there are still no plans to vote on any school safety or gun legislation. After a stunning, televised White House meeting last week where Trump seemed to call on the GOP to go toe to toe with the National Rifle Association and abandon some key Republican principles on gun legislation, the Senate has turned its attention to a banking bill. While senators continue trying to work behind the scenes to build consensus for disparate pieces of legislation, there isn't much optimism that lawmakers are on the cusp of a major deal.

"I thought this time, with these high school kids with their media savvy and social media ... that this could be sustained, but it may go," Sen. Jeff Flake, an Arizona Republican, said of the Senate's lack of movement.

On the table still is a narrow proposal that would incentivize states and federal agencies to enter more data into the National Instant Criminal Background Checks system, called "Fix NICS." But, Democrats have said they want more robust fixes included, something Republicans haven't been quick to agree to, despite Trump's public push.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, a Utah Republican who is retiring at the end of his term, has also unveiled his own school safety bill, but there is no vote scheduled in the Senate.

Sens. Pat Toomey, a Pennsylvania Republican, and Chris Coons, a Delaware Democrat, have also introduced a plan that would flag individuals to state authorities when they try and fail to buy a gun because they can't pass the background check. Behind the scenes, Toomey has also said he is trying to win more GOP support for a bill he sponsored several years ago that would expand background checks on guns purchased at gun shows and over the internet.

But he's warned that it takes time.

"I am speaking with a number of my Republican colleagues who did not support our bill in the past, but are reconsidering the bill now," Toomey said. "We need more support, obviously. The last time we had this vote we didn't get the 60 that we need so we're trying to find a way to get there."

Sen. John Cornyn, No. 2 Senate Republican, warned Tuesday morning his fear is that with so many proposals floating around, nothing will ever get a vote.

"Everybody's coming up with a lot of different ideas, but you know what that usually turns into is nothing and that would be profoundly disappointing," Cornyn said.

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