In a bid to keep pressure on the White House to respond to mass shootings, Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer is preparing to ask that President Trump withdraw a request for $5 billion in border wall funding and redirect the money toward programs that aim to reduce gun violence and white supremacist extremism.
While it’s highly unlikely that Trump will retreat from efforts to fund his long-promised border wall, the move by Schumer (D-N.Y.) is designed to keep a focus on the Republican response to the recent shootings in El Paso and Dayton, Ohio.
“The dual scourges of gun violence and violent white supremacist extremism in this country are a national security threat plain and simple, and it’s time the Trump administration and Republicans in Congress starting treating them as such,” Schumer said in a statement.
The suspected gunman in the El Paso shooting that left 22 dead told officers that he had targeted Mexicans, according to a police affidavit.
Schumer’s plan to ask Trump for the shift in funding priorities was first reported by Politico and confirmed Tuesday morning by someone familiar with Schumer’s thinking, who requested anonymity to share internal deliberations.
Trump asked for an additional $8.6 billion in his latest budget for border barriers, including $5 billion from Department of Homeland Security construction accounts and $3.6 billion for the Pentagon to assist with the project.
The programs for which Schumer will suggest boosting funding include initiatives in the Department of Homeland Security to counter violent extremism; domestic terrorism investigations conducted by the FBI; and gun violence research conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Democrats are also continuing to press Senate Republicans to allow votes on a pair of bills passed this year by the House that are designed to strengthen background checks for gun owners.
Trump previously vowed to veto the bills, saying they infringed on Second Amendment rights, but he has said in recent days that he would like to see the passage of background-check legislation.
On Friday, Trump told reporters that he could rally Republicans around such legislation and persuade the nation’s powerful gun lobby to drop its long-standing opposition, tasks that have proved elusive following other mass shootings on his watch.