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House Judiciary Panel Takes Up Gun Control Measures To Pressure Republicans

Sep 10, 2019
Originally published on September 10, 2019 4:54 pm
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AILSA CHANG, HOST:

The House Judiciary Committee is expected to approve several new gun control measures in response to the mass shootings in Texas and Ohio. It's the latest effort by House Democrats to ramp up pressure on Senate Republicans to act. But it all hinges on President Trump, who's been hard to pin down on the issue. NPR congressional reporter Claudia Grisales has been following the developments and joins us now.

Hey, Claudia.

CLAUDIA GRISALES, BYLINE: Hi, there.

CHANG: OK. So there's been so much talk on both sides about the prospect of Congress passing or at least considering some kind of gun legislation after the August recess. We're here now. Give us a sense of where those efforts are at this point.

GRISALES: Well, today the House Judiciary Committee is taking action after weeks of fresh concerns following these mass shootings in Ohio and Texas. It's brought up this debate that, once again, Capitol Hill still won't be able to do something on gun legislation even after the most recent rash of shootings.

But on the other side of the Capitol, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters that a top Trump aide briefed Republican senators about working on something that the president can back.

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MITCH MCCONNELL: And so we do, in fact, await word from the White House about what the president is willing to sign. That's important to a lot of my members. It also, at the risk of repeating a history lesson, is the only way we will get a law.

CHANG: All right. Well, there have been negotiations going on between the White House and a bipartisan group of senators. Do you have a sense of how those talks have been going?

GRISALES: Well, so far, several senators, including Republican Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Democrats Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Chris Murphy of Connecticut, have been talking to the White House about expanding background checks. And while Toomey has voiced optimism, Democrats remain skeptical that the president will get behind a bipartisan plan. Murphy told reporters that Trump appears torn and tied to his base.

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CHRIS MURPHY: I think he's totally torn. I think he's - I think he understands where the country is moving. He understands that a background check bill would help him with the middle of the electorate. But he's, you know, still tied to this base turnout strategy.

GRISALES: However, Democrats say that whenever Trump signals support for certain gun legislation, he talks to the NRA. And he backs off soon after.

CHANG: All right. So as we're waiting to see where the president will end up, NPR has new polling today that shows there is widespread support for Congress to act on guns. What do you think? Will that happen this time around?

GRISALES: Well, there's a lot of talk on Capitol Hill, but it's unclear if there will be actual votes. We know the House will continue its efforts to put pressure on the Senate. It's expected to vote on these new gun measures that the Judiciary Committee is expected to pass. And those include a federal red flag law that would force removal of firearms from individuals who pose a threat. Other measures include limits to high-capacity magazines and stopping those convicted of hate crimes from owning a firearm.

But Republicans say they don't want to line up support behind any specific bills until they hear from the president himself. On Capitol Hill, Senator Mitt Romney of Utah repeated what a lot of Senate Republicans said today. They don't want to act until they hear from the White House.

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MITT ROMNEY: But there's not a lot of interest in just taking votes that we know the president will veto because we don't accomplish anything by doing so.

GRISALES: So we could be looking at plenty more gridlock ahead.

CHANG: That's NPR's Claudia Grisales.

Thanks, Claudia.

GRISALES: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.