Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., sought Tuesday to put his Democratic counterpart in a box on the gun control issue, challenging his commitment to bringing gun legislation to the floor.
“I’m unclear yet as to whether the majority leader wants to bring a gun measure to the floor. It’ll be up to him to determine whether we see that issue on the floor, up to the Judiciary Committee to determine whether or not we have hearings and go forward,” McConnell said. “I’m among those who’d be happy to take a look at whatever the majority decides to advance on that subject.”
Addressing reporters before Majority Leader Harry Reid made his remarks, McConnell was effectively baiting reporters to ask the Nevada Democrat about his personal views on gun control, considering Reid has opposed the assault weapons ban in the past. Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., made a similar move in a Jan. 16 statement after a gun violence speech by President Barack Obama.
“Some have asked whether I will try to block or filibuster this debate because of my support of the Second Amendment. My goal is the opposite. I believe Congress has a responsibility to review all of our laws and make adjustments as necessary in a transparent, open and deliberative manner,” Coburn said. “I would welcome the opportunity to debate these issues on the floor of the Senate, and would encourage Majority Leader Reid to schedule a full and open debate.”
Reid, for his part, pledged Tuesday to put the committee work product of Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., and his panel on the floor.
“I’m going to do everything within my power to bring legislation dealing with gun and violence generally to the floor. At the caucus today, Sen. Leahy was very, very expansive in talking about the hearings he’s going to have on gun control,” Reid said.
Leahy will hold hearings on gun and violence issues beginning Wednesday, a turn of events spurred by last December’s mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. It is not clear how soon the Judiciary Committee could hold a markup to get a package ready for the floor.
“It’s very clear that there’s going to be a bill brought out of the committee, brought to the Senate floor, and there will be an amendment process there,” Reid said, adding that senators would be permitted to “bring up whatever amendments they want that deal with this issue.”
Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., is one of several Democratic members of the Judiciary Committee who is generally to the left of Reid on firearms policy.
“After the hearing, we have to roll up our sleeves in the committee and go to work. We’ve got to take a starting bill and go through the amendment process. How many times have we heard on the floor ‘Well, this hasn’t even had a hearing!’” Durbin said. “We’ll have our hearing, and that’s the beginning of the process.”
The more liberal contingent also includes New York Democratic Sen. Charles E. Schumer, the no. 3 member of Reid’s leadership team, and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.
“She’s talked to me about her assault weapons ban — the new one — she believes in it fervently and I admire her for that,” Reid said when asked specifically if he would vote for Feinstein’s bid to revive the expired assault weapons prohibition. “I’ll take a look at that.”
“We’re going to have votes on all kinds of issues dealing with guns, and I think everyone would be well-advised to read the legislation before they determine how they’re going to vote for it,” he added.