One Gun Control Bill Has 60 Votes in the Senate — Now What?

Current floor schedule may prevent timely consideration of legislation

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted March 9, 2018 at 11:45am

Gun-related legislation backed by President Donald Trump now has enough support to clear the Senate, increasing pressure on Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky to schedule a vote on the measure.

The bill from Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn of Texas and Sen. Christopher S. Murphy, D-Conn., that would enforce existing law related to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System has 60 additional cosponsors as of Friday, an aide confirmed.

Support for the legislation now exceeds the 60 required “yes” votes to pass the Senate, and President Donald Trump wants McConnell to tee up a vote on the measure, according to a senior White House official.

“We want that vote, yes,” Marc Short, Trump’s legislative affairs director said Friday.

The current floor schedule may prevent timely consideration of the legislation. A spokesman for McConnell previously had no scheduling announcements to provide. 

A bill from Senate Banking Chairman Mike Crapo of Idaho that would rollback some federal oversight of financial institutions will take up the early part of next week. The Senate is expected to then take up legislation from Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, addressing online sex trafficking and must also pass a fiscal year 2018 spending bill by March 23.

The chamber is on recess the last week of March and the first week of April, meaning it could be mid-April before a floor vote on the “Fix NICS” bill from Cornyn and Murphy. The measure could also be attached to the pending omnibus, which the House may vote on as early as next week.

“McConnell is not willing right now to commit, to commit to these votes,” Murphy previously said. “Republicans know the huge political jeopardy if they would refuse to have a debate on these measures.”

Pressure on Congress is expected to increase after March 24, when a large student-led gun control demonstration is planned in Washington, D.C.

The White House plans to release its promised “principles” for any legislation aimed at preventing gun violence and school shootings early next week, a senior official said Friday.

Legislative Affairs Chief Marc Short said he believes the guidance will come before the House vote.

The White House initially said that priorities list would be released last week. But then the GOP president held a “gun summit” at the White House with a bipartisan group of lawmakers and sided with Democrats most of the time, prompting a delay.

The House is slated to consider a bill next week that would establish a federal grant program for schools to implement threat assessment protocols — a measure Democrats say is insufficient. It will also vote on a bill offered by Florida GOP Rep. John Rutherford, called the STOP School Violence Act, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said this week.