The proposed ban, “using the most optimistic numbers, has less than 40 votes. That’s not 60,” Reid said.
Still up for consideration are three other bills approved last week by the Senate Judiciary Committee: bipartisan legislation to make gun trafficking a federal crime, a bipartisan measure to expand a Justice Department grant program that provides funding for school security, and a Democratic proposal to expand the nation’s gun background check program.
Reid is working to determine whether to merge the three bills into one comprehensive package or to hold separate votes on each measure, said aides familiar with ongoing negotiations. The decision will be based on whether one or all of the bills receive enough support to ensure final passage, they said.
“I want people to have the ability to vote on assault weapons, mental health, safety in schools, federal trafficking, clips — everything,” Reid told reporters. “But I cannot do that until I get a bill on the floor, and it’s been very clear that the Republicans want us to have bills coming to the floor that have gone through committee.”
The assault-weapons ban is the most ambitious and controversial proposal backed by Obama. Introduced by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the bill would bar almost 160 specific semiautomatic weapons and rifles and assorted military-style parts, and would limit the size of ammunition magazines to 10 rounds, banning the larger magazines used in some of the more recent and brazen mass shootings. The ban has 22 Senate Democratic co-sponsors, including Feinstein.
A bill limiting the size of ammunition magazines was originally introduced by Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg (D-N.J.), but was merged with Feinstein’s measure and approved by the judiciary panel.
Feinstein said Tuesday that Reid has assured her that the assault-weapons ban will earn an up-or-down vote in the full Senate, probably as an amendment to one of the other bills under consideration. A separate up-or-down vote can then be held on the ammunition proposal, she said.
“Obviously I was disappointed,” Feinstein said Tuesday, but she acknowledged that including her bill in any comprehensive package would sink the prospects of passing gun-control legislation this year.
“The enemies on this are very powerful; I’ve known that all my life,” she added, referring to the National Rifle Association. “But I’m confident this bill would be constitutional.”