Will the gun bill make it through this week?

April 15, 2013

Every week when Congress is in session, congressional reporter Ed O'Keefe breaks down what you need to know for the week to come on Capitol Hill.

Most of this week's congressional action will originate in the Senate, where work continues on overhauling the nation's gun and immigration laws. Both issues are progressing as expected: Slowly, and seemingly always on the verge of potential collapse.


(Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg)

With the House avoiding any discussion of guns and immigration until the Senate acts, the lower chamber will spend most of the week focused on issues related to government operations, the economy and cybersecurity -- a sleeper issue that lawmakers of both parties agree is one of the most important and least-talked-about issues in Washington.

So what's up on Capitol Hill this week? Here's your guide:


Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W. Va.), left, and Patrick Toomey (R-Pa.). (Allison Shelley/Getty)

1.) Guns: The Senate is scheduled to begin formal debate Tuesday of the gun bill by first considering a bipartisan amendment authored by Sens. Joe Manchin III (D-W. Va.) and Patrick Toomey (R-Pa.) that would expand the gun background check program. (Read more on this in a story penned by Tom Hamburger and yours truly in Monday's Post).

Checking the raw politics, the amendment could be in trouble: Sixteen GOP senators voted last week to proceed to debate on gun legislation, but several of them and some moderate Democratic senators said they are unlikely to support most, if not all of the bill's proposed amendments.

Only three Republican senators -- Toomey, Mark Kirk (Ill.) and Susan Collins (Maine) -- have said they plan to vote for the Manchin-Toomey agreement. On Sunday, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said on CNN’s “State of the Union” that he is “favorably disposed” toward the compromise, but did not offer a definitive answer.

Other Republicans who voted for debating the gun bill plan to vote no on the amendment, according to spokesmen: Sens. Lamar Alexander (Tenn.), Tom Coburn (Okla.), Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), Lindsey Graham (S.C.), John Hoeven (N.D.) and Johnny Isakson (Ga.).

We'll also be watching several moderate Democrats who voted to proceed with debate, but face difficult reelections in 2014 and have given less-than supportive endorsements of the overall gun debate: Sens. Max Baucus (Mont.), Kay Hagan (N.C.), Mary Landrieu (La.) and Mark Pryor (Ark.).

A Baucus spokesman said Sunday that the senator is reviewing the Manchin-Toomey proposal "and listening to feedback from Montanans to make sure they have a chance to weigh in." A Landrieu spokeswoman noted that the senator voted to proceed to debate on the gun bill, but hasn't made up her mind on the amendment. We didn't hear back from Hagan or Pryor's staffs.

Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) hopes to hold an up-or-down vote on the Manchin-Toomey plan by mid-week. Then what?

Reid hopes to move next to a vote on the controversial plan to ban military-style assault weapons, according to senior Senate aides familiar with the plans. The ban is cosponsored by 22 Senate Democrats, but expected to fall far short of the 60 votes needed to ensure final passage. Regardless, holding a vote will fulfill Reid's promise to President Obama, the plan's lead sponsor, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), and gun control groups who supported the ban.

Then, Reid hopes to hold a vote on a Democratic plan to limit the size of ammunition magazines, another proposal expected to fail, aides said. From there, he could proceed to a host of proposed amendments, including a bipartisan plan to provide more federal funding for mental health programs that assist military veterans, a Coburn proposal to establish an online portal for gun buyers to conduct their own background checks, a Republican plan to change the legal definition of mentally ill people when it comes to gun crimes, and an overarching GOP alternative to the current underlying gun bill.

Meanwhile in the House, Reps. Peter King (R-N.Y.) and Mike Thompson (D-Calif.) plan to introduce a version of the Manchin-Toomey agreement Monday that mirrors the Senate plan. King, who represents a suburban Long Island district, said he hoped the Senate deal would extend background checks to include most private firearms transactions, but "there's no sense of making the perfect the enemy of the good these days."

Notably, King said in an interview Sunday that he has had no formal discussions with House GOP leadership or the House Judiciary Committee about when his bill might be considered -- proving again that it's still very much "wait and see" in the House.


Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

2.) Immigration: The bipartisan "Gang of Eight" plans to formally unveil its proposal on Tuesday and it will be the subject of a hearing held by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday.

The plan is expected to include a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, new visa programs for low-skilled and highly skilled workers, increased border control and workplace security measures, and the elimination of some categories of family visas.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) pulled off the unthinkable Sunday -- appearing on seven Sunday political talks shows, two of which broadcast in Spanish -- from Miami's Biltmore Hotel so he could fully endorse the emerging plan.

Notably, Rubio spent much of his time Sunday allaying the fears of conservatives skeptical of the plan: “We’re not awarding anything," he said of the proposal. "All we are giving people the opportunity to eventually do is gain to access to the same legal immigration system, the same legal immigration process that will available to everybody else."

(For more on immigration, make sure to read Chris Cillizza's review of the five senators to watch on the immigration bill.)


(Eric Schulzinger / Lockheed Martin via Reuters)

3.) And what about the House?: The GOP-controlled chamber is scheduled to vote Monday night -- Tax Day -- on a series of measures related to government operations, including a plan to provide more resources and investigative powers to the Government Accountability Office and a bill that would require federal agencies to fire employees who are delinquent on their taxes.

The House is scheduled to vote Tuesday on a plan to provide more federal money for cybersecurity professional development programs and Wednesday on a controversial measure that would require private companies and the federal government to share more information about potential cybersecurity threats. The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act enjoys bipartisan support; a similar version passed the House last year, but was later blocked by Senate Republicans who opposed it.

How should your lawmakers vote on guns, immigration and cybersecurity? What else is going on this week that we missed? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Follow Ed O'Keefe on Twitter: @edatpost

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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