Democrats split on cutting recess short after mass shootings

Democrats split on cutting recess short after mass shootings

House Judiciary Chair Jerry Nadler wants some of his fellow Democrats back on the Hill from recess to push gun legislation, but not everyone in the caucus is on board. | Alex Wong/Getty Images congress Democrats split on cutting recess short after mass shootings By HEATHER CAYGLE, LAURA BARRÓN-LÓPEZ and SARAH FERRIS 08/05/2019 03:16 PM…

Jerry Nadler

House Judiciary Chair Jerry Nadler wants some of his fellow Democrats back on the Hill from recess to push gun legislation, but not everyone in the caucus is on board. | Alex Wong/Getty Images


Democrats split on cutting recess short after mass shootings

House Democrats are divided on their next stepsin the wake of two deadly mass shootings over the weekend, with some lawmakers demanding the House immediately come back from recess and pass stricter gun control bills, including an assault weapons ban.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi pushed back on the idea during a private caucus call Monday, telling Democrats that they should stay focused on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his blanket refusal to consider two gun control bills that passed the House earlier this year.

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“The president and Mitch McConnell have to feel the public sentiment on this. We have a golden opportunity to save lives,” Pelosi said on the call, according to an aide.

“The grim reaper said he is not going to bring them up,” she added, using McConnell’s nickname. “This is where we have to go.”

Other Democrats, noting McConnell is unlikely to bring Democratic-authored legislation to the Senate floor, pushed for more immediate action in the House. Some lawmakers, including House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), said his panel should return to Capitol Hill and vote on additional gun-related bills, including an assault weapons ban, according to several sources on the call.

The debate over how the Democratic-controlled House should respond comes after a pair of mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, over the weekend left at least 31 people dead and dozens more wounded.

The alleged shooter in Texas appeared to release a manifesto saying he wanted to target Hispanics and stop immigrants from invading — using language similar to that employed by President Donald Trump as recently as May. The manifesto also referenced the New Zealand mosque shooting that left 51 people dead. Less than 24 hours before the shooting, two dozen House Democrats were in El Paso touring migrant facilities at the border.

In response to the deadly shootings, Trump initially floated the idea of strengthening background checks — and linking the bill to an immigration overhaul — in a tweet Monday morning before backing off the suggestion in a speech later in the day.

most sweeping gun control legislation in a decade, including a bill requiring background checks for nearly all gun purchases.

“The bill that is over in the Senate — the bill the House passed — is the bill that all the experts tell us will do the most good the quickest,” Rep. Mike Thompson (D-Calif.), chairman of the House’s Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, said in an interview. “Mitch McConnell needs to do his job.”

The House also passed a bill that would close the so-called Charleston loophole to prevent individuals from buying guns before their background check is completed. That bill, authored by House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), came after the massacre at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in 2015 in which nine African Americans were murdered by a white supremacist.

“In February, the brand new Democratic majority passed a bipartisan gun violence prevention act and Mr. Clyburn’s bill as well. They have been sitting over there,” Pelosi said on Monday.

Clyburn, who spoke after Nadler on the call, agreed with Pelosi that returning to Washington would take pressure off McConnell to act. But other lawmakers pushed for the full House to return early from its six-week break — or at least members of the Judiciary panel, who could vote on additional gun control measures. The House Homeland Security Committee also plans to hold multiple field hearings on white supremacy around the country this month, Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) said during the call.

Rep. Katie Hill (D-Calif.) said mass shootings should be treated as a “national emergency” and that Democrats’ first focus is on “forcing” McConnell to call back the Senate and vote on the House-passed gun control measures.

“We need to take immediate action to address domestic terrorism and take further steps on gun violence prevention from every angle,” said Hill, a freshman member of leadership. “I believe the House should come back from recess as well to prepare additional legislation that has overwhelming public support to send to the Senate.”

Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-N.J.), another freshman, also endorsed the idea of the House ending its recess early, but said the chamber should also take action to address domestic terrorism, according to multiple sources on the call. Hill and Malinowksi represent swing districts.

Gun control advocates have long pushed the House to vote on more aggressive legislation — like an assault weapons ban or a bill to limit high-capacity magazines — though none would stand a chance in the GOP-controlled Senate.

But other Democrats argue that they’ve already passed substantial legislation to tackle gun violence and warn that returning to Capitol Hill this summer could cloud Democrats’ message that they’ve already taken action.

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Mitch McConnell

  • Lindsey Graham
  • Nancy Pelosi
  • Jerry Nadler
  • Jerrold Nadler
  • James Clyburn
  • Gun Violence
  • Tom Malinowski
  • Katie Hill
  • El Paso shooting
  • Dayton shooting
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