Mike Thompson

Former top military advisers urge Congress to pass gun background checks bill
Ex-leaders are part of veterans coalition organized by Giffords’ group

Retired Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal is among the former military advisers and leaders urging congressional leaders to pass a universal backgrounds check bill. (John Medina/Getty Images file photo)

More than a dozen retired top military commanders, leaders and advisers, whose careers spanned both Republican and Democratic administrations, are throwing their weight behind a bill in the House and Senate that would require universal background checks for all U.S. gun sales.

In a letter Thursday, 13 former top military advisers and combat leaders urged congressional leaders in both parties to pass the bill, known in the House as HR 8, which targets private gun sales that don’t require background checks under current federal law.

House Judiciary panel advances background check bill
Democrats are using new majority to press gun control legislation

Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Calif., introduced the background checks bill that the House Judiciary Committee approved Wednesday night. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

A sharply divided House Judiciary Committee approved legislation Wednesday to bolster background checks for gun sales, the opening barrage in Democrats’ push to use their new majority to press gun control legislation they have backed for years.

To do so, Democrats needed to defeat numerous efforts from Republicans to amend the bill. It was one of two measures considered during a marathon meeting, highlighting not only the political hurdles to enacting the legislation but also how Democrats believe it could make a difference with voters in 2020.

Parkland shooting to be commemorated with new bill requiring background checks on gun sales
The bill would require gun sellers to conduct background checks on buyers

"There's nothing statistically that supports that," Rep. Lucy McBath, D-Ga., said to the claim by Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., that undocumented immigrants are to blame for gun violence in the U.S. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Flanked by the parents of children killed or disabled by guns, including the parents of children slain in the Parkland shooting one year ago, Rep. Jerry Nadler announced Thursday he would advance a bill to require background checks on gun sales next week.

Nadler chairs the Judiciary Committee, which has broad jurisdiction over firearm regulations. The New York Democrat announced the committee will advance the Bipartisan Background Checks Act on Wednesday, Feb. 13th. The next day, February 14th, marks the anniversary of a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, which claimed 17 lives.

House Democrats’ gun agenda to start with where they might get GOP votes
Early bills will be more narrow in focus to avoid a pileup of go-nowhere legislation

Rep. Mike Thompson  is chairman of the House Democrats’ Gun Violence Prevention Task Force. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Democratic supporters who helped sweep in a new class of lawmakers promising a gun law overhaul might have to wait longer than they’d like for that agenda to materialize in the form of bills.

While Democrats wrestled back the majority in the House, Republicans still control the Senate, and Donald Trump is still in the Oval Office.

Disaster aid bill could grow, block diversion of funds to wall
Measure unlikely to go far in Senate

Rep. Austin Scott, R-Ga., (left), is pushing for a disaster aid package. Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., opposes an amendment Democrats are preparing that he describes as an “exercise in futility. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The House is scheduled to take up a $12.1 billion disaster aid package Wednesday that would reopen the nine closed Cabinet agencies for three weeks and, if approved during floor debate, prevent President Donald Trump from tapping the bill’s emergency funds for building a border wall.

The underlying bill would direct aid to victims of recent calamities such as hurricanes that hit Florida and the Carolinas, wildfires that ravaged California and typhoons that struck island territories in the Pacific, House Appropriations Chairwoman Nita M. Lowey, D-N.Y., told the Rules Committee on Tuesday.

Photos of the week: Shutdown approaches fourth week in Washington
The week of Jan. 7 as captured by Roll Call's photographers

Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., who has opposed the shutdown from the start, speaks during the National Air Traffic Controllers Association rally to “Stop the Shutdown” in front of the Capitol on Thursday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The shutdown is in its 21st day, and with talks stalled and Congress gone through Monday, its likely to continue through the weekend. 

Here’s the entire shutdown week in photos:

House Democrats target private gun sellers with bipartisan background checks bill
Universal background checks bill indicates gun law reform will remain near top of Democratic agenda

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., speaks during the event to introduce the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019 in the Capitol on Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2018. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

House Democrats introduced bipartisan legislation Tuesday that would require all gun sellers, including private vendors, to conduct background checks on potential buyers, indicating the issue will be a top item on the Democratic agenda during the 116th Congress.

Under current law, only federally licensed vendors must conduct background checks. Private sellers who do not have licenses do not fall under the same compliance mandate.

These Planes Will Fight Fires, If You Can Wait 10 Years
Stalled Air Force conversions show how a seemingly straightforward job can take years in the arcane federal acquisition system

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., spearheaded the recent legislative mandates to convert the transport planes into fire tankers. It’s taking too long, she says. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

In 2013, Congress ordered the Air Force to convert seven Coast Guard transport planes into firefighting tanker aircraft, but now the first of the planes may not be ready to fight fires for several more years, nearly a decade after the initial plan was launched. 

The story of the seven planes illustrates how a seemingly straightforward job can take years in the arcane federal acquisition system, even when the equipment is a matter of life and death. 

House Democrats Briefly Consider Upping Speakership Vote Threshold, Drop Proposal for Now
Idea expected to be raised again in the caucus after Nov. 6

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., faces potential backlash from her caucus should her party win back the House in November. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

House Democrats on Wednesday briefly discussed a proposal to require their candidate for speaker — in case they win the chamber in November — to secure 218 votes in the caucus vote instead of a simple majority. The proposal was dropped, for now.

A shift from a simple majority to a 218-vote threshold would align the caucus rules with House rules that require a speaker to be elected by a majority of the full House.

McKinley ‘on a Mission’ to Help Veterans Hear
Hearing-impaired congressman wants to make it easier for vets to get cochlear implants

Rep. David B. McKinley, R-W.Va., has a visible hearing aid on his right ear. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Rep. David B. McKinley is thankful to hear birds chirping in the morning and wants others to have that opportunity.

The West Virginia Republican, who has a cochlear implant in his left ear, has made improving the lives of people like him a personal goal.