The Senate is set to hold a critical vote Thursday to move toward final passage of a major bipartisan gun safety bill. The vote is expected to be successful with Republican support, putting the legislation on track to pass the Senate as soon as this week.
The bipartisan gun agreement represents the first major federal gun safety legislation in decades. It includes millions of dollars for mental health, school safety, crisis intervention programs, and incentives for states to include juvenile criminal records in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.
It also makes significant changes to the process when an 18-21-year-old goes to buy a firearm and closes the so-called boyfriend loophole, a victory for Democrats, who have long fought for it.
The package represents the most significant new federal legislation to address gun violence since the 10-year assault weapons ban that expired in 1994, though it doesn’t ban any guns and falls far short of what Democrats and polls show the most Americans want to see.
The critical vote on the federal gun safety bill came on the same day the Supreme Court struck down a New York gun law enacted more than a century ago that places restrictions on carrying a concealed firearm outside the House.
The ruling highlights the conflicting political forces surrounding the issue at all levels of government, as the judiciary implements the most sweeping expansion of gun rights in a decade, just as the legislature appears on track to pass its largest gun safety package in nearly 30 years.
Thursday’s vote will be held to overcome a Republican filibuster and requires 60 votes to succeed, meaning at least 10 Republicans must join Democrats in voting for it.
However, that is expected to happen after 14 Republicans voted to promote the bill in an initial vote Tuesday night.
Once the Senate breaks a filibuster, it will pave the way for a final approval vote.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer called for the bill to pass this week, though the exact timing of the final vote has yet to be determined. A final vote in the Senate could come Thursday if all 100 senators agree to a time agreement. It will take place on a simple majority threshold.
The House would then have to accept the bill before it can become law. It’s not yet clear how quickly the bill could move through both chambers, but if the Senate holds a final approval vote Thursday night, the House could pass the measure soon after.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said if the Senate passes the gun safety bill on Thursday, the House will meet and pass it on Thursday as well.
“We’re going to try to do it today,” he said. “If they move it that fast, we’ll do it.”
Senate rules allow any senator to delay the process, and Schumer on Thursday called on Senate Republicans to work with Democrats to pass the legislation “before the day is out.”
The legislation arose in the wake of the recent tragic mass shootings at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, and at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, which was located in a predominantly black neighborhood.
A bipartisan group of negotiators went to work in the Senate and released the legislative text on Tuesday. The bill, titled the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, was published by Republican Senators John Cornyn of Texas and Thom Tillis of North Carolina and Democratic Senators Chris Murphy of Connecticut and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona.
Lawmakers are now rushing to pass the bill before leaving Washington for the July 4 recess.
The fact that the text of the bill has been finalized and that the legislation now appears to be ready to pass the Senate is a huge victory for the negotiators who came together to reach an agreement.
The bipartisan effort appeared to be on thin ice after several key sticking points emerged, but negotiators were eventually able to resolve the issues that emerged. The deal marks a rare case of cross-party compromise on one of the most contentious issues in Washington — a feat in today’s highly polarized political environment.
Reaching bipartisan agreement on major gun legislation has been notoriously difficult for lawmakers in recent years, even in the face of countless mass shootings across the country.
“For too long, political games in Washington on both sides of the aisle have stalled progress in protecting our communities and keeping families safe and secure,” Sinema said Wednesday in a Senate speech.
“Placing blame and trading criticism and political attacks has become the path of least resistance, but communities across our country that have experienced senseless violence deserve better than Washington politics as usual,” the Arizona Democrat said. . “Our communities deserve a commitment from their leaders to do the hard work of putting politics aside, identifying the problems that need to be solved, and working together toward common ground and common goals.”
The bill includes $750 million to help states implement and run crisis intervention programs. The money can be used to implement and administer red alert programs, which can temporarily prevent people in crisis from accessing firearms through a court order, and for other crisis intervention programs, such as mental health courts, drug courts and veterans courts.
This bill closes a years-old loophole in domestic violence law, the “boyfriend loophole,” which prohibited people who were convicted of domestic violence crimes against married partners, or partners with whom they shared children or couples with whom they cohabited, had weapons. . The old statutes did not include intimate partners who cannot live together, be married, or share children. Now, the law will prohibit anyone convicted of a domestic violence crime against someone with whom they have a “continuing serious relationship of a romantic or intimate nature” from owning a gun.
The law is not retroactive. However, it will allow those convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence to have their gun rights restored after five years if they have committed no other crimes.
The bill encourages states to include juvenile criminal records in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System with grants and implements a new protocol for checking those records.
The bill goes after people who sell guns as their primary source of income but have previously evaded registering as a federally licensed firearms dealer. It also increases funding for mental health and school safety programs.
A division has emerged among some prominent members of the Republican leadership in the House and Senate.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has said he supports the bipartisan arms deal. But top House Republican leaders are opposing the bill and urging their members to vote “no” even as the Senate moves toward passing the bill this week.
But even with House Republican leaders opposing the bill, there are already some House Republicans who have indicated they plan to vote for it, and it is hoped that the Democratic-controlled chamber will be able to pass the legislation once it is approved. be approved in the Senate.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has promised to “quickly get it to the floor” of the House once it gets through the Senate, “so we can get it to President Biden’s desk.”
“While more is needed, this package must be quickly signed into law to help protect our children,” Pelosi said in a statement.
This story has been updated with additional developments on Thursday.