Speaker Paul D. Ryan said Wednesday the House will proceed with a vote on a counter-terrorism and gun control package but declined to say when, given defections from the conservative wing of his party and outright opposition from Democrats.
“We’re going to do it when we’re ready and we’re going to do it in a good amount of time,” Ryan said at a news conference Wednesday.
Late Tuesday night, the House Freedom Caucus voted to oppose the GOP counter-terrorism package in its current form, citing a variety of concerns including the fact that the bill did not go through the regular committee process.
Rep. Matt Salmon said Wednesday he expects most Freedom Caucus members to vote against the bill if it doesn’t go back through committee.
Ryan spoke only briefly about the measure during a Republican conference meeting Wednesday morning and he did not specify what the next steps would be, Salmon said.
However, Salmon said that Ryan did say that some members to need to have a vote on package. While Ryan did not elaborate, Salmon said he expects Republicans in swing districts feel they need a vote on the gun control provision.
Democrats plan to oppose the GOP bill too, saying its gun provision is too weak to keep terror suspects from buying firearms. The measure would halt a gun sale to someone on the terrorist watch list for three days unless the government can produce evidence that the person belongs on the list.
Two House Democrats met with Ryan privately Tuesday night to push for their preferred gun control proposals – a more sweeping ban of gun sales to people on the watch list and expanded background checks – but Ryan offered no assurances that they would get the votes they’re requesting.
On Wednesday morning, Democrats held a rally with gun control advocates and victims’ families on the Capitol steps.
A vote on the Democratic measures in their current form is unlikely, since Ryan has raised concerns about the proposals’ violating constitutional rights to bear arms and due process.
In the wake of terrorist attacks in Orlando and Istanbul, GOP leadership introduced the counter-terrorism bill late last week and planned to move onto the floor this week. A House Rules Committee meeting to consider amendments to the bill was postponed Tuesday and has not been rescheduled.
Ryan said Wednesday that GOP leaders are listening to members’ concerns about the bills and gathering information on the changes they are seeking, both to the gun control provision and the counter-terrorism measures in the bill.
“We want to make sure we get it right,” Ryan said. “The last thing we’re going to do is rush something to the floor that we don’t have right.”
Still, Ryan talked up the positives of the bill, saying it is “common sense” because it requires the government to prioritize counter-terrorism efforts and to make sure guns don’t fall into the hands of terror suspects.
“There isn’t a person in Congress that wants a terrorist to get a gun,” Ryan said, “but we also want to make sure that we do not undermine those ongoing terrorist investigations that law enforcement is conducting.”