Members of the Congressional Black Caucus voiced concern to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Wednesday about a pair of pro-gun amendments attached to unrelated bills.
But Reid, in a private meeting with the CBC representatives, defended the provisions as having a wide base of support in the Senate and warned that a gun-control offensive could carry significant political costs for the party, participants said. Further, Reid said, there was little he could do to stop the amendments, considering his chamber’s more open rules.
“It’s like the wild wild West— in terms of the rules, Reid told the group, according to Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.).
The long-planned huddle happened to fall on a day when the House approved legislation tightening restrictions on credit card companies, along with a measure to allow people to carry concealed weapons in national parks. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) has gathered bipartisan support for including the gun provision in the Senate’s version of the credit card bill.
And CBC members are frustrated that the D.C. voting rights bill remains stalled since the Senate added a gun-rights amendment, stumping House Democratic leaders about how to move a clean version of the measure without losing critical support from gun champions in their own ranks.
CBC members leaving the meeting described the session as civil but expressed little hope that Reid would move to limit future gun amendments — the “parade of guns,— as Hastings put it. “They have that prerogative under their rules, and I anticipate they will do it more and more as we progress,— he said.
Rep. Danny Davis (D-Ill.) called the gun amendments poison pills. “If you’ve got legislation that’s got seemingly a clear path to passage, and then somebody sticks a poison pill amendment on it, obviously that frustrates you,— he said.
The D.C. voting rights measure has effectively been off the table since early March, when House Democratic leaders yanked it from scheduled floor time to try to reach a compromise on the gun issue. Now, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) is set to miss his self-imposed target of passage by Memorial Day, though he said this week he remains confident the bill will pass this year. And in the meeting, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) said she told Reid the House is making progress toward resolving the hang-up and asked him to “quickly get it out of conference— if and when that happens.
CBC members and Reid also discussed health care and energy reform — dual priorities for Democrats — but got cut short by votes before they could wade into judicial nominations. They agreed to schedule a second session to tackle that topic.