Policy

House GOP Opens the Door to Gun Control Debate

Rules Chairman Sessions says Democrats' no-fly list provision not a poison pill

House Rules Chairman Pete Sessions of Texas says he could allow a debate on gun-control provisions. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call file photo)

House Rules Chairman Pete Sessions suggested Tuesday that some gun control provisions could be considered as amendments to appropriations bills, particularly a measure related to suspects on the terror watch list.  

"It’s being discussed right now," said the Texas Republican, said of possible legislation related to the no-fly list. He added that Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul "is going to determine not just the policy but the application of that, and I’ll follow Chairman McCaul’s lead."  

McCaul’s office said he’s not been involved in discussions about gun control. A Sessions aide clarified that the Rules Chairman was using McCaul as an example but meant that he would like chairmen who have jurisdiction over these issues to be involved in the decisions since they are the experts in those areas.  

In the Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he would consult with federal law enforcement experts about what would work to prevent further episodes like the "atrocity" at a gay nightclub in Orlando , Florida on Sunday that left 50 people dead including the gunman.  

"We're open — nobody wants terrorists to have guns — to serious suggestions from the experts," the Kentucky Republican said.  

[ Democrats and Republican Diverge After Orlando Attack ]  

Senate Democrats are exploring the possibility of forcing late night sessions of the Senate to discuss gun violence and the response to the mass shooting terror attack, according to a senior Democratic aide.  

Democrats in both chambers have indicated they will offer amendments on upcoming appropriations bills that will crack down on gun laws, including a provision they've pushed for years to ban people on the no-fly terror watch list from being able to purchase guns.   

[ Democrats Say GOP "Deer in the Headlights" on Gun Legislation ]  

While Sessions said he welcomes the Democrats' ideas, he said the solution may be different than what they're proposing.   

"We’re going to be less narrow and more broad [and] look at the entire issue, not just related to no-fly lists," he said. "And I do not consider that a poison pill."  

[ Regular Disorder: Another House Free-for-All ]  

House Republicans have decided to limit "poison pill" amendments —contentious issues that inflame partisan debate and can sink the entire bill — on appropriations bills by allowing the Rules Committee to determine what measures come up for debate.  

The crackdown on amendments came after the House overwhelmingly rejected an energy and water appropriations bill in late May. Many Republicans cited an amendment offered by New York Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, a Democrat, to prevent federal contractors from discriminating against LGBT employees, as their reason for voting against the bill . But they blamed Democrats for also voting against it after pushing for the amendment.   

[ House GOP Considers 'Poison Pill' Remedy ]  

Maloney offered his amendment again on a defense spending bill. The Rules Committee met Tuesday to decide what amendments would be made in order. Sessions said he'd look at the Maloney measure with fresh eyes and didn't automatically rule it a poison pill.   

"I’m not going to look favorably upon people who bring an amendment, vote for it, pass it, and then kill the bill because of it," Sessions said. "And that’s the problem. It has nothing to do with the LGBT issue, gun issue, no-fly issue, flag issue. It has to do with people who want to take down the appropriations bills. That’s the point."  

House Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers of Kentucky said what amendments the Rules Committee decided to make in order was out of his hands.   

Contact McPherson at lindseymcpherson@rollcall.com and follow her @lindsemcpherson. Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.