The Democrats’ push for action comes amid public outrage over mass shootings across the country, including rampages last month in Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso that left 31 people dead.
“This morning, we made it clear to the president that any proposal he endorses that does not include the House-passed universal background checks legislation will not get the job done, as dangerous loopholes will still exist and people who shouldn’t have guns will still have access,” Pelosi and Schumer said in their statement.
“We know that to save as many lives as possible, the Senate must pass this bill and the President must sign it,” they added. “We even promised the President that if he endorses this legislation and gets Senator McConnell to act on what the House has passed, we would both join him for a historic signing ceremony at the Rose Garden.”
The call was made shortly after 11 a.m., when Trump was at his golf course in Northern Virginia, and lasted 11 minutes, according to a Democratic aide familiar with the conversation. The Rose Garden idea mentioned in the statement was Schumer’s, said the aide, who was not authorized to publicly discuss the call.
White House spokesman Judd Deere said that Sunday morning’s phone conversation was “cordial” and that it centered on Pelosi and Schumer’s interest in action on H.R. 8, the expanded background checks bill passed by the House.
Trump, Deere said, “made no commitments” on the measure “but instead indicated his interest in working to find a bipartisan legislative solution on appropriate responses to the issue of mass gun violence.”
“The president reiterated his commitment for his administration to continue work on these issues,” Deere said in a statement.
According to an official familiar with the negotiations, who was not authorized to speak publicly, Trump told Pelosi and Schumer he was having a “big meeting” Monday on the issue and would be doing something “this week.”
In an interview on “Fox News Sunday” hours earlier, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway said “there are a number of pieces of legislation the president is considering” on guns, although she did not offer any specifics.
In February, Trump issued a veto threat for both measures. H.R. 8, he argued, would “impose burdensome requirements on certain firearm transactions” and was “incompatible with the Second Amendment’s guarantee of an individual right to keep arms.” H.R. 1112, he said, would allow the government to “restrict firearms purchases through bureaucratic delay.” That measure would extend the window for completing a background check to 10 business days.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has repeatedly said he would bring legislation to the floor only if it has the president’s endorsement.
In an exchange with reporters at the Capitol last week, McConnell accused Schumer of a “stunt” after the Democrat called on the Senate to take up the gun bill, which McConnell noted “the president already said he is going to veto.”
“My members know the very simple fact that to make a law you have to have a presidential signature. . . . And so, we do, in fact, await word from the White House about what the president is willing to sign,” McConnell said.
Polls show an overwhelming majority of the public supports tightening gun laws. A Quinnipiac University survey released late last month showed that 93 percent of Americans support background checks for all gun buyers, 82 percent support requiring a license to purchase a gun, and 80 percent support “red flag” laws allowing guns to be taken away from people deemed to be a threat to themselves or others.
Trump has gone back and forth on the issue. Immediately after the El Paso and Dayton shootings, the president said “there is great appetite” for tightening background checks. But weeks later, he appeared to back away from his potential support for such legislation, shifting the focus from background checks to mental health in his public remarks on the matter.
In their statement, Pelosi and Schumer touted the House-passed gun measures as “bipartisan, commonsense legislation to expand background checks, which is supported by more than 90 percent of the American people.”
“Yet, for 200 days, Senator McConnell has refused to give these bipartisan bills a vote on the Senate Floor, again and again putting his own political survival before the survival of our children. . . . We will not stop until these bills are passed and our children’s lives are safe,” they said.
Seung Min Kim, Mike DeBonis and Josh Dawsey contributed to this report.