The Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives, under mounting pressure to advance gun-control legislation, will vote next week on a measure to keep guns out of the hands of people on government terrorism watch lists.
House Speaker Paul Ryan announced the plan in a conference call with lawmakers. Democrats, who staged a 25-hour sit-in on the House floor last week to push for gun control following the mass shooting in Orlando, said they were wary that Republican leadership would opt for a watered-down measure backed by the National Rifle Association.
Republican leadership aides declined to provide details. One said the package was still being worked out.
Following the June 12 shooting that killed 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, gun-control proponents on Capitol Hill grew more optimistic about prospects for advancing legislation in an election year when Republicans could lose control of the Senate.
“We are going to get something done this year, I predict,” Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid told reporters at a news conference. “I think we’re going to take a bite out of the NRA.”
Reid said he was hopeful for a bill introduced by Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine, and a bipartisan House companion bill backed by Republicans including Representative Carlos Curbelo of Florida, that would prevent gun sales to anyone on the government’s “No Fly List” for terrorism suspects or the “Selectee List” of people subject to extra screening at airports.
The Collins and Curbelo bill allows would-be buyers to appeal and requires a court decision within 14 days.
A source on Ryan’s conference call said the speaker said the House would act next week on a gun measure as part of a larger terrorism package, calling the gun restriction “just common sense.”
Representative Bob Dold of Illinois, a Republican backer of the Curbelo bill, urged Ryan and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy to opt for the bipartisan measure before Thursday’s announcement, an aide said.
But Democrats speculated that Republicans may instead choose a bill introduced last December by Representative Lee Zeldin of New York, which would give government officials three days to decide whether a gun sale should be blocked. Democrats say that timetable is insufficient.
It is the companion bill to a Senate measure introduced by Senate Republican Whip John Cornyn of Texas, which failed in the Senate last week.
Drew Hammill, an aide to House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, said the Zeldin bill would not address Democrats’ demands for gun control, adding: “This is the NRA bill.”
Democrats have vowed to keep pressing for gun control when they return to Washington from their U.S. Independence Day break next week. They said further sit-ins remained an option.
Last week’s sit-in infuriated Republicans. Ryan said Democrats wanted to focus on guns instead of terrorism.
(Reporting by David Morgan; editing by Jonathan Oatis and David Gregorio)