Toomey-Manchin background check measure faces obstacles
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    Default Toomey-Manchin background check measure faces obstacles

    Susan Ferrechio
    August 13, 2019

    A Senate measure to expand background checks would seem headed for quick passage following the recent string of mass shootings and President Trump’s interest in the bill.

    But decades of partisan fighting over gun control in Congress, coupled with the elevated political stakes in a looming election years, it is more likely headed for the legislative graveyard.

    [B]Sens. Pat Toomey, a Republican from Pennsylvania, and Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia, are lead sponsors of a bill to expand background checks to include gun show and internet sales.[/B]

    President Trump signaled his interest in a background check measure, telling reporters last week, “There’s an appetite, and I mean a very strong appetite, for background checks.”

    Trump said the GOP and Democrats “are getting close to” a bill expanding background checks.

    But there are significant differences in what the two parties would be willing to accept in a gun control measure, and that wide gap is not bridged by the Toomey-Manchin bill.

    House Democrats, for starters, say the Toomey-Manchin background check bill doesn’t go far enough.

    They plan to hold a press conference Tuesday to demand passage of a House-passed bill, not Toomey-Manchin.

    Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s support for a bill is critical because she controls the House floor schedule and can choose to reject a Senate bill if her caucus believes it is too weak.

    Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer are calling on the Senate to pass H.R. 8, the background check bill the House passed in February.

    It would expand background checks to gun shows and internet sales, but it also goes further than Toomey-Manchin by banning private sales from nonlicensed dealers, with the exclusion of some family transactions and loans.

    Pelosi and Schumer urged President Trump to back the House measure in a phone call last week, suggesting he pressure Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, to take up the proposal.

    “We spoke to the President separately this afternoon and told him the best way forward to address gun violence in our country is for Leader McConnell to let the Senate take up and pass the House-passed universal background checks legislation and for the President to sign it into law,” Pelosi said on Aug. 8. “The President gave us his assurances that he would review the bipartisan House-passed legislation and understood our interest in moving as quickly as possible to help save lives.”

    But the House bill has very little GOP support, despite Democrats touting it as a bipartisan measure.

    The measure passed the Democrat-led House with 240-190 on Feb. 27. Only eight Republicans voted for it.

    McConnell has ignored the House-passed bill and, in the wake of the recent trip of mass shootings in Gilroy, California, El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, he has not indicated he’ll bring up the House bill.

    In an interview with WHAS-AM in Louisville, McConnell said background check legislation, as well as “red flag” proposals, which would allow law enforcement to take guns away from people considered dangerous, would be at the top of the list of legislation the Senate will consider when it returns from the August recess.

    “Those are two items that for sure will be front and center as we see what we can come together on and pass.” McConnell said.

    But McConnell didn’t promise a vote on Toomey-Manchin for a reason.

    The measure, while less expansive than the House bill, has never earned significant GOP support.

    The Senate voted on the bill in 2013 and it failed to beat a GOP-led filibuster, earning only 54 votes.

    Only four Republicans voted for the bill at the time and just two of them are still serving: Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, and Toomey.

    Most Senate Republicans have been silent on background checks in the wake of the recent string of mass shootings.

    Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee promised to use his perch as committee chairman of the Education and Labor Committee to take “an immediate look to find additional bipartisan ways to fund states’ efforts to increase school safety and to help Americans with serious mental health problems.”

    But Alexander did not endorse new background checks.

    “Especially in a nation with a constitutional right to bear arms, new laws from Washington, D.C., alone won’t stop this violence,” Alexander said. “It will take a change in behavior. Every day our internet democracy displays millions of hateful thoughts. To change behavior, each of us has a responsibility to replace these hateful thoughts with statements that respect the dignity of every individual, regardless of their background.”

    The nation’s two leading gun rights groups, the NRA and Gun Owners of America, are opposed to universal background checks, arguing they go far beyond gun show sales and will criminalize family gun transfers and gun loans, making it harder for people to protect themselves.

    They want Congress to instead address mental health issues that have driven the behavior of some of the shooters.

    NRA CEO and Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre warned Trump last week that universal background checks will harm support from his base.

    “I can confirm that the NRA opposes any legislation that unfairly infringes upon the rights of law-abiding citizens,” LaPierre said in a statement following his discussions with Trump.

    “The inconvenient truth is this: the proposals being discussed by many would not have prevented the horrific tragedies in El Paso and Dayton. Worse, they would make millions of law abiding Americans less safe and less able to defend themselves and their loved ones.”

    LaPierre called the measures “nothing more than ‘soundbite solutions’ which fail to address the root of the problem, confront criminal behavior, or make our communities safer.”

    Toomey, in an interview with CNN, told host Jake Tapper he believes more Republicans will be ready to back his bill, despite the persistent opposition from the NRA.

    “It’s true Susan and I are the only two Republican senators remaining who voted for it,” Toomey said, referring to Collins and the original 2013 vote on the Toomey-Manchin measure. “But I think that the sentiment has changed somewhat, and maybe it’s just the accumulation of pain from all of these horrific experiences.”

    Both Toomey and Manchin believe if Trump signs on to the bill, it will encourage other Republicans to support it.

    “The president is open to this conversation, and I’ve spoken with him several times in the last 24 hours,” Toomey told CNN.

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    Last edited by Popeye; 08-13-2019 at 04:08 PM.
    The difference between a Socialist and a Communist is that the Socialist doesn't have all the guns yet.


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