The Senate likely won’t immediately take up gun legislation after a mass shooting that killed 19 elementary school students and two teachers, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said on Wednesday.
Schumer said he hoped to work with Republicans to gain support for a compromise gun control measure, even though he acknowledged such an effort is all but doomed.
“I believe that accountability votes are important,” Schumer said in a floor speech. “But, sadly, this isn’t a case of the American people not knowing where their senators stand. They know. They know because my Republican colleagues are perfectly clear on this issue.”
Republicans, as Schumer suggested, would block any gun measure. It would need 60 votes — Democrats only have 50 members in the Senate, not all of whom would necessarily support a gun bill. The GOP overwhelmingly opposes nearly all gun restrictions.
Still, Schumer could bring a bill to the floor if he wanted — except doing so could make life difficult for some of his members, too. A vote on gun control measures could divide his Democratic caucus and expose vulnerable members up for reelection this fall.
There’s also the matter of a previously scheduled two-week recess. Many senators — including Democrats — have plans to travel abroad on congressional fact-finding trips. The earliest the Senate could hold a vote on guns is Saturday, which would spoil those plans.
Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) said Democrats shouldn’t take the blame for GOP intransigence on gun control.
“If the Republicans would actually break their addiction to the gun lobby … we would stay till midnight, night after night, to pass it,” Brown said. “Don’t put that on [Democratic] leadership as if, oh, the Democrats are leaving town.”
Earlier this month, the Senate voted on a bill to codify abortion rights, even though Democratic leaders knew it didn’t have enough votes to pass. The goal with that vote, like others, was to put lawmakers on the record for their abortion views. In that case, too, the records were already clear, but Schumer held the vote anyway.
On guns, Schumer said voters should remember how Republicans voted in the past and hold them accountable in November.
“Americans can make a choice. Americans can reject the Republican guns-at-all-costs doctrine. … Americans can cast their vote in November for senators or members of Congress that reflect how he or she stands with guns,” Schumer said.
He said Democrats will also continue to push Republicans to work on a bill.
“You gotta keep persisting. And we will,” Schumer said. “And for that reason alone we must pursue action and even ask Republicans again to join us. Maybe, maybe, maybe. Unlikely. Burnt in the past. But their hearts might see what has happened and join us.”
Members of the public are already urging lawmakers to act. Marnie Beale of Arlington, Virginia, protested outside the Capitol on Wednesday pleading with senators to vote as soon as possible.
“Because things get stale, life goes on and people start to forget, the pictures of those kids get off the TV…why won’t we let a vote?” Beale said. “I’m just a 76-year-old woman, I don’t know what I can do…but crying and raging at home doesn’t do any good, does it?”