A day after President Donald Trump surprised Republicans by embracing a series of gun control measures backed by Democrats, there was no sense in the halls of Congress that his statements had made a demonstrable change in the gun debate, as Republicans and Democrats continued to emphasize plans that had their party’s support even before a school shooting in Florida two weeks ago.
“Ultimately there are things that we can do that have widespread bipartisan support, that we can act on, that we can get passed, that will actually make a difference,” said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL).
In a speech on the Senate floor, Rubio set out a plan which included federal money to help schools bolster security, gun violence restraining orders, and the “Fix NICS” bill – designed to funnel more information into the instant background check system for gun buyers.
“Do not hold hostage a piece of legislation that would work, and that we all support, because it doesn’t have everything that you want,” Rubio said, in a clear message to Democrats.
But moments before Rubio spoke – from the other side of the Senate floor – a leading Democrat made clear that action in Congress needed to be much more aggressive than Rubio’s five point plan.
“We keep living through a nightmare of gun violence,” said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY). “We have to act.”
“We have the power to help stop this; the question is whether the Congress has the political will to do it,” Gillibrand added, as she pressed the case for universal background checks, something that most GOP lawmakers have shied away from.
“We keep living through a nightmare of gun violence that repeats itself,” said Gillibrand, as she rattled off familiar names like Orlando, Sandy Hook, Aurora, San Bernardino, and now Parkland, Florida.
As for Democrats, their Senate leader Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) unveiled a three point action plan of his own, which frankly was much more limited than it could have been, judging by the calls from party activists for action on guns.
Schumer said there must be efforts in Congress to expand background checks, raising the Toomey-Manchin approach which failed five years ago in the Senate.
The Senate Minority leader also joined Rubio and the President in backing Gun Violence Protective Orders; the final item from Democrats was for a debate on the Senate floor on an assault weapons ban.
While many Democrats support such a plan, Schumer readily acknowledged that would not have the votes to pass in the Congress at the current time.
As Senators prepared to leave Capitol Hill for the weekend, it was obvious – yet again – that there was no magic solution on school safety and guns, though Schumer said one person could change that.
“Hope springs eternal,” Schumer said when asked what the President could do. “What he said yesterday was very encouraging.”
“I think the President knows he could show real leadership by bucking the NRA.”
And with no agreement on what should be voted on, GOP leaders say they are not going to rush any bill to the floor for a vote.