Schumer says addressing gun violence will be top Dem priority this fall
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said pressuring Republicans to act on gun violence will be a top priority this fall for Democrats, according to a letter to his colleagues released on Thursday.
In the letter, first obtained by POLITICO, Schumer wrote that Democrats will continue to call on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to bring to the floor House-passed legislation requiring universal background checks. So far, no Senate Republicans support the measure.
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“President Trump and Senate Republicans have failed to act on the issue of gun violence, bowing repeatedly to the NRA and the hard right by choosing inaction or half-measures over real, meaningful legislation,” Schumer (D-N.Y.) wrote. “Comprehensive, evidence-based solutions, like updating our laws to require background checks for all gun sales, must be a part of any congressional action to curb gun violence.”
Schumer’s call for gun control measures comes after back-to-back mass shootings in Texas and Ohio in August that left at least 31 people dead, as well as a new shooting over the weekend in Odessa, Texas that left seven people dead.
Republicans have focused on more modest proposals like red flag laws, which allows authorities or a family member to petition a court to remove guns from an individual who may be a threat to themselves or to others. A bipartisan proposal from Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) that would expand background checks to all commercial sales has also received renewed attention.
McConnell said in an interview this week that he’d be willing to put gun legislation on the floor that has President Donald Trump’s backing. Trump initially called for “meaningful background checks” in the aftermath of the El Paso and Dayton shootings, but has since shifted his focus to mental health-focused measures.
In addition to addressing gun violence, Schumer said Democrats will use their authority under the Congressional Review Act to try to rescind the Trump administration’s guidance that loosened requirements for state Obamacare waivers. Schumer wrote that the guidance gives states “the green light to offer watered down plans lacking critical protections for the millions of Americans with pre-existing conditions.”
Schumer also said Democrats would continue to push, as part of the appropriations process, for election security legislation. Before the summer recess, Democrats tried several times to bring up election security legislation by voice vote. But Republicans say such measures are not necessary, noting that the 2018 midterm election was more secure than the 2016 election.
“The Mueller report and our intelligence community concluded that Russia interfered in our 2016 elections and that more must be done to thwart attempts to interfere in our 2020 elections and beyond,” Schumer wrote. “Despite these warnings, Leader McConnell has blocked efforts by Senate Democrats to pass commonsense election security legislation.”
In addition, Schumer emphasized the need to address the multi-employer pension crisis. Several multi-employer pension plans, including the Teamsters’ Central States Pension Fund, are headed toward insolvency, threatening the benefits for members of those plans.
Finally, Schumer wrote that Democrats should push McConnell to bring to the floor bipartisan legislation from Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) that would reassert U.S. support for Hong Kong amid mass protests over a controversial bill that would have allowed extradition to mainland China. In August, McConnell penned an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal that warned the Senate would take action if China continues to interfere with Hong Kong’s autonomy.
“Senate Democrats must work to increase pressure on Leader McConnell to stop burying bills he doesn’t like in his graveyard and to get the Senate working again by actually debating and voting on legislation to address our nation’s greatest challenges,” Schumer concluded the letter.