Reid pulls gun bill from consideration

April 18, 2013

Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) announced Thursday that the Senate will “take a pause” and return to consideration of gun legislation at a later date.

“Yesterday, President Obama said it was a shameful day for the Senate, and it probably was, I agree. But we should make no mistake: This debate is not over, in fact this fight is just beginning,” Reid said on the Senate floor Thursday.

Reid's decision came the day after President Obama’s comprehensive gun control effort suffered defeat in the Senate, with all the major proposals he backed failing to gain enough votes.

Reid said the Senate would “take a pause and freeze the background check bill where it is” and return to it at an undetermined date, likely with consideration of other proposed amendments.

“We’re going to come back to this bill,” Reid said.

Before making the announcement Thursday afternoon, Reid consulted with the White House about pulling the bill, and the White House supported the move, according to a White House official familiar with the talks.

The underlying bill hasn't been defeated and is still technically on the legislative calendar. As majority leader, Reid can bring up the bill again at a moment's notice.

When the Senate might reconsider the bill remains uncertain and may not occur for weeks or months. Reid said the Senate would move next to consideration of an Internet taxation bill, a proposal that is believed to enjoy bipartisan support.

Before Reid pulled the bill, senators voted Thursday to approve two amendments: One that would deter states from publishing lists of gun owners and a bipartisan plan to bolster federal funding for mental health efforts, including suicide prevention programs.

On Wednesday, senators blocked or defeated proposals that would ban certain military-style assault rifles, limit the size of ammunition magazines and expand background checks to most commercial gun sales. The action on background checks came despite polls showing that nine in 10 Americans support the idea, which was designed to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill.

Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W. Va.), who helped write the bipartisan background check proposal, said Thursday that he supported Reid's decision and was confident the Senate would return to the issue.

"The bottom line is, that the facts were just so clean and clear," Manchin said in an interview. "The bill had been worked on for three months, it took everyone. It sure as heck wasn’t the president’s bill."

Manchin said he was especially distressed Thursday as he sat listening to colleagues repeat incorrect information about the contents of his proposal.

“They were just getting talking points from somebody, whether it be staff or someone. Trying to find any little wiggle room that they could find to change the interpretation," he said.

Manchin said he was especially angry with the National Rifle Association, which had incorrectly claimed that background checks on Internet gun sales would infringe upon people trying to privately sell or transfer weapons to family members or close friends.

Manchin said it was unlikely that most transfers between close family and friends would require posting an advertisement about a weapon online.

"If you’re selling your gun on the Internet to your son, to your cousin or to your close family and friends, you better check your relationships," Manchin said.

Other Democrats admitted they should have moved faster to marshal support for the bill.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said that the family members of the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School were the most effective advocates for reform.

"The more my colleagues have a chance to talk to them, the more powerful the impact is," he said in an interview with The Fold, a Washington Post video program. "So bringing them into the process earlier, more visibly, might have been something that we could have done. I brought them to private meetings, but maybe we should have accelerated that process.”

Paul Kane, Brook Silva-Braga and Philip Rucker contributed to this report.

Ed O’Keefe is a congressional reporter with The Washington Post and covered the 2008 and 2012 presidential and congressional elections.
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