The Washington Post

Senate postpones deliberation of gun bills

The proposed assault weapons ban is sponsored by U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein. (YURI GRIPAS/REUTERS)

Senators working on legislation to curb gun violence postponed consideration of the measures for at least a week, a move that gives a bipartisan group working on a plan to expand the nation’s gun background check system more time to reach an agreement.

The Senate Judiciary Committee agreed Thursday to reconvene March 7 to begin considering bills sponsored by Democrats to revamp the background-check system, make gun trafficking a federal crime for the first time, bolster school security programs and ban hundreds of military-style assault weapons and parts.

The background-checks bill is expected to earn the most bipartisan support if a deal can be reached among two Democrats and two Republicans trying to draft a compromise.

“They’re not over; everybody’s still working,” Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) said of the talks as he emerged from a meeting with fellow negotiators on the Senate floor Thursday afternoon. “Everybody’s working in good faith.”

Manchin is joined in the talks by Sens. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.).

How the NRA exerts influence over Congress

Although there is general agreement on the proposal’s broad outlines, Coburn is strongly opposed to adding language to the bill that would require gun owners to keep transactional records of private firearms sales, according to aides who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the internal deliberations.

The Judiciary Committee’s decision to postpone consideration of the legislation was expected and is something that can occur whenever a member of the panel requests more time for review, aides said. In this case, Republicans signaled that they would like more time to consider the proposals and potentially propose amendments.

When the committee reconvenes, “we will spend as much time as it takes” to review the bills, Chairman Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) said at a brief hearing. The proposed assault-weapons ban, sponsored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), will get an up-or-down vote in the committee despite strong objections from Republicans and moderate Democrats, Leahy said.

“We will have votes on her legislation — it’s a serious piece of legislation; it is not a frivolous matter by any example and she deserves hearings, she deserves votes and she will have them,” Leahy said of Feinstein’s bill.

But the committee’s ranking Republican, Sen. Charles E. Grassley (Iowa), said that Feinstein’s bill “raises a lot of constitutional questions” and that his GOP colleagues have several concerns about it. Citing disagreements over automatic spending cuts set to take effect Friday, Grassley also said he is worried about the potential costs of a bill proposed by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) to provide more federal money for school security.

Grassley said the Justice Department needs to increase its enforcement of current gun laws, but said Republicans are not universally opposed to reforming them.

“We ought to be determined to take effective, constitutional action that would prevent future catastrophe and make this world safer,” he said.

Discuss this topic and other political issues in the politics discussion forums.

Ed O’Keefe is covering the 2016 presidential campaign, with a focus on Jeb Bush and other Republican candidates. He's covered presidential and congressional politics since 2008. Off the trail, he's covered Capitol Hill, federal agencies and the federal workforce, and spent a brief time covering the war in Iraq.

The Freddie Gray case

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Campaign 2016 Email Updates

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Get Zika news by email

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!
Show Comments
The South Carolina GOP primary and the Nevada Democratic caucuses are next on Feb. 20. Get caught up on the race.
Past South Carolina GOP primary winners
South Carolina polling averages
Donald Trump leads in the first state in the South to vote, where he faces rivals Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio.
South Carolina polling averages
The S.C. Democratic primary is Feb. 27. Clinton has a significant lead in the state, whose primary falls one week after the party's Nevada caucuses.
62% 33%
We'll have half a million voters in South Carolina. I can shake a lot of hands, but I can't shake that many.
Sen. Marco Rubio, speaking to a group of reporters about his strategy to regain support after a poor performance in the last debate
Fact Checker
Sanders’s claim that Clinton objected to meeting with ‘our enemies’
Sanders said that Clinton was critical of Obama in 2008 for suggesting meeting with Iran. In fact, Clinton and Obama differed over whether to set preconditions, not about meeting with enemies. Once in office, Obama followed the course suggested by Clinton, abandoning an earlier position as unrealistic.
Pinocchio Pinocchio Pinocchio
The complicated upcoming voting schedule
Feb. 20

Democrats caucus in Nevada; Republicans hold a primary in South Carolina.

Feb. 23

Republicans caucus in Nevada.

Feb. 27

Democrats hold a primary in South Carolina.

Upcoming debates
Feb 13: GOP debate

on CBS News, in South Carolina

Feb. 25: GOP debate

on CNN, in Houston, Texas

March 3: GOP debate

on Fox News, in Detroit, Mich.

Campaign 2016
Where the race stands

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.