WASHINGTON — House GOP leaders said Wednesday they will formally whip against the bipartisan legislative package to combat gun violence, and request that their members vote no if it passes the Senate.
Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and Minority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., conveyed their opposition to the measure, negotiated in the Senate, during a closed-door meeting with their GOP colleagues on Capitol Hill.
The legislation could pass with only Democratic votes in the House, though it will likely receive support from a number of moderate Republicans. One GOP lawmaker, for example, predicted that 10 to 15 House Republicans will defect and vote in favor of the bill, the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act.
In a thread of tweets Wednesday, Rep. Tony Gonzales, a Republican from Uvalde, Texas, said he would vote for the bill. It was crafted following the mass shooting in his district last month in which 19 children and two teachers were killed, and another in Buffalo, New York, that killed 10 people.
“I am a survivor of domestic abuse, my stepfather would come home drunk & beat on me and my mother. One night he decided that wasn’t enough and shoved a shotgun in my mother’s mouth. I was 5 at the time and not strong enough to fend off the wolves,” tweeted Gonzales, adding that school was his sanctuary from the chaos at home and he served his country in the Navy for 20 years, including in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan.
As a congressman, he said, “it’s my duty to pass laws that never infringe on the Constitution while protecting the lives of the innocent. In the coming days I look forward to voting YES on the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act.”
At least 10 Republicans have signaled that they back the bipartisan bill, which means the legislation is expected to overcome the 60-vote filibuster in the Senate to advance to a final vote. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., aims to hold a final vote by the end of the week before Congress leaves for a two-week July Fourth recess.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said after the text was released by Senate negotiators Tuesday that she plans to bring the bill to the House floor for a vote once it passes in the upper chamber.
Pelosi said in a statement that while more is needed to address gun violence, the legislation contains beneficial provisions.
“Communities across the country will benefit from House Democrats’ proposals included in this package, which will help keep deadly weapons out of dangerous hands by encouraging states to establish extreme risk protection order laws and by putting an end to straw purchases,” she said. “This legislation will also move to close the ‘boyfriend loophole,’ which marks strong progress to prevent known abusers from acquiring a firearm.”
Earlier this month, the House passed legislation that contained stronger gun-related restrictions. The chamber approved the Protecting Our Kids Act in a 223-204 vote, with five Republicans joining all but two Democrats in support. Democratic Reps. Jared Golden of Maine and Kurt Schrader of Oregon opposed the bill. The five Republicans who bucked their party were Chris Jacobs of New York, Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, Fred Upton of Michigan, Anthony Gonzalez of Ohio and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois.
The bipartisan Senate package, which contains narrower restrictions, could draw more Republican support.
The legislation would offer “red flag” grants to every state, including those that do not adopt red flag laws, which can be used on other crisis prevention programs designed to prevent individuals in crisis from resorting to violence, said Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, the chief GOP negotiator.
The boyfriend loophole and red flag provisions were the last two major sticking points among the core senators: Cornyn; Chris Murphy, D-Conn.; Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz,; and Thom Tillis R-N.C.
The bill also enhances background checks for people 18 to 21 years old, Murphy said, allowing up to three days to conduct checks, and an extra 10 days if there are signs of concern. He said it would impose tougher penalties for gun trafficking and “clarify” which sellers must register as a federal firearm licensee, which would force them to conduct background checks. And he said the bill would expand money for mental health and school-based health.
The National Rifle Association quickly announced its opposition to the bill, arguing in a Tuesday statement that the legislation “does little to truly address violent crime while opening the door to unnecessary burdens on the exercise of Second Amendment freedom by law-abiding gun owners.”
This is the closest Congress has come to passing significant legislation to address gun violence in nearly 10 years. After the December 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Pat Toomey, R-Pa., struck a deal on background checks, but it was defeated in 2013.
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