In his weekly news conference, Reid told reporters he’d like to move a bill to address gun control or background checks but was not confident there are enough votes in the Senate to do so.
The mass shooting at the Washington Navy Yard — which took place a mile from the Capitol — has advocates once again talking about gun legislation, but still without the votes to pass it.
During his weekly news conference, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said a background check bill, first drafted in response to the elementary-school shooting in Newtown, Conn., isn’t yet achievable.
“We don’t have the votes,” Reid said. “I hope we get them, but we don’t have them now.”
The Nevada Democrat said he might be willing to move a mental-illness gun bill without a background check expansion, but that comment was quickly walked back by an aide who sent around guidance that Reid does not, in fact, intend to pass a mental-illness gun bill without expanded background checks.
In April, the Senate was five votes short of clearing a 60-vote threshold on a measure from Sens. Joe Manchin III, D-W.Va., and Patrick J. Toomey, R-Pa., to expand background checks.
Its companion measure in the Republican-led House hasn’t gone anywhere.
Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Calif., introduced the House companion background check bill with Republican Rep. Peter T. King of New York earlier this year. Thompson said Tuesday morning that “Congress cannot keep standing on the sidelines while more and more lives are senselessly cut short by gun violence.”
But Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, the No. 2 Democrat in the House, told reporters that while the Navy Yard shooting could bring the gun discussion back, little is likely to be accomplished.
“I’m sure it will renew the debate as to what policy we pursue to not necessarily eliminate — because I’m not sure that’s possible — but to substantially reduce the gun violence,” the Maryland Democrat said.
The House minority whip said the politics remain difficult.
“Yes, I think it will bring up debate. Whether it will bring up action is problematic,” Hoyer said. “If ‘the past is prologue,’ our prologue is not very hopeful.”
Hoyer said many guns rights activists are single-issuer voters, outside groups hold “great sway, particularly in the Republican party” and support for more restrictive gun laws doesn’t “manifest itself at the polls.”
The combative Rep. Steve Stockman, R-Texas, took a different tone on Twitter than the conciliatory approach most politicians used to express sadness for the victims of the Navy Yard shooting.
“12 people tragically killed and self-serving anti-gun extremists trampled each other to beclown and embarrass themselves again. Shameful,” @SteveWorks4You tweeted.
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.