Democratic leaders assail Trump’s apparent reversal on background checks
Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi are lamenting President Donald Trump’s apparent about-face on enhanced backgrounds for firearm sales, with Schumer calling the move “not only disappointing but also heartbreaking.”
Trump told reporters this weekend he will look “very strongly” at ideas from both Democrats and Republicans but said to remember that “we already have a lot of background checks.” Those remarks followed Trump’s Aug. 7 claim that “we can bring up background checks like we’ve never had before.”
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In the Senate minority leader’s view, Trump’s remarks amounted to backing away from burgeoning bipartisan talks on reviving and amending the background checks bill by Sens. Joe Manchin and Pat Toomey.
“We’ve seen this movie before: President Trump, feeling public pressure in the immediate aftermath of a horrible shooting, talks about doing something meaningful to address gun violence, but inevitably, he backtracks in response to pressure from the NRA and the hard right,” Schumer said on Monday afternoon. “These retreats from President Trump are not only disappointing but also heartbreaking, particularly for the families of the victims of gun violence.”
Added Pelosi: “I pray that the President will listen to the 90 percent of the American people who support universal background checks.”
For well more than a year now, Trump has vacillated between considering stricter firearm measures and dismissing them. After a trio of mass shootings this summer, Trump has revived the idea of bringing up a legislative package in the GOP Senate in a bid to stopping such shootings.
Senators in both parties, including Manchin (D-W.Va.), Toomey (R-Pa.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) have been discussing ideas with each other or with the White House. Some of the proposals include changing the background checks bill to attract more Republicans, installing federal red flag laws aimed at preventing gun violence from people deemed dangerous, cracking down on straw gun purchases and making domestic terrorism a federal crime, as proposed by Sen. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.). Any such bill would need the support of at least 13 Republicans and all 47 Democratic Caucus members, a heavy lift.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has expressed openness to a gun debate in the Senate, but it’s possible that work on spending bills could sideline the firearm issue, particularly if Trump is lukewarm. The House passed a universal background checks bill earlier this year and Schumer is urging McConnell to bring it to a Senate vote.
“The way forward is for Sen. McConnell to put the bipartisan House-passed universal background checks bill on the Senate floor for a vote immediately,” Schumer said on Monday.
Yet that bill will struggle to attract 50 votes, much less the 60 needed to break a filibuster. Collins opposes it because it doesn’t include enough exemptions for transfers to family members, essentially guaranteeing it would not pass the Senate.
“You’re really going to go to your adult child and have to do a background check? People in Maine are very sensible and they know it doesn’t make sense,” Collins said in a recent interview.