Feinstein was pessimistic Tuesday about the future of her bill to ban assault weapons.
Feinstein’s bill itself will be subject to two separate votes, both as amendments to the larger gun package, she said. The first would be a vote on the entire assault weapons bill, and the second would strip out the legislation’s ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines. She said Reid likely views the latter component as likelier to win passage.
Feinstein characterized her meeting with Reid not as a negotiation but more of a declaration from the majority leader.
“I made my argument, but that’s the way he feels,” she said.
‘I Can’t Fight the NRA’
She also pointed to the power of the National Rifle Association as one reason for the tough road her legislation has faced, even after one of the worst school shootings in American history.
“I can’t fight the NRA. The NRA spends unlimited sums, backed by the gun manufacturers — who are craven, in my view,” she said. “I don’t know what else to do, other than the best we can in drafting a bill, in asking for support and in enabling something to pass in the Senate. Now I could put a hold on the whole package, you know? But I’m not going to do that.”
While Feinstein and Reid both acknowledged the end of the road for the assault weapons ban, gun control advocates are making clear that they don’t want to see Senate leaders similarly give up on the universal background check legislation that the White House has made its top gun priority.
Mark Glaze, the director of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, cautioned Reid against excluding a background check proposal that has attracted much attention— as well as strong public support — but so far is lacking a single Republican co-sponsor.
“I know [Reid] is testing the waters about leaving the background check bill out,” Glaze said. But to exclude the proposal as part of the base legislation would be a “waste of an important public moment,” he said.
“I think it misreads the politics of the moment,” Glaze said. “The background check option has by far the best politics attached to it while being the biggest policy fix. If Congress can’t find a way to approve an effective background check bill when there is near unanimity among the American public, it’s hard to understand what they could do.”
Former Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., candidate for U.S. Senate in New Hampshire, holds his hand over his heart during the singing of the national anthem as he waits to take the stage for his town hall campaign rally with Sen. John McCain at the Pinkerton Academy in Derry, N.H., on Monday, Aug. 18, 2014.