Gun safety bill bogs down on details

Senate negotiators on Thursday failed to reach a final deal on the legislative text of a gun safety proposal, which means the bill will probably be delayed at least a week.  

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) told reporters that negotiators hadn’t reached agreement on the final draft of the bill after several rounds of meetings Thursday.  

“This is the hardest part, because at some point you just have to make a decision and when people don’t want to make a decision, you can’t accomplish a result. And that’s kind of where we are right now,” Cornyn, the lead Republican negotiator, said as he left the Capitol basement Thursday afternoon.  

“You don’t want to give politicians an unlimited amount of time to talk, because they will fill the available space,” he said. “It’s fish or cut bait. 

“I told them I’m leaving but I’ll be available by email or by text messages,” he said as he walked out of the basement hideaway office of Sen. Chris Murphy (Conn.), the lead Democratic negotiator.  

Murphy said the “goal” was to get a final agreement on legislative text by Thursday, which would have given Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) a chance to schedule it for a vote next week.  

But he downplayed the significance of failing to get a deal after several days of in-person negotiations in the Senate.  

“I don’t think we have to get it done by today, but that should be our goal,” he said Thursday morning.  

Negotiators say they’re stuck on two provisions in the bipartisan framework, a proposal to send hundreds of millions of dollars states to set up red flag laws or other intervention procedures for taking guns away from people deemed dangerous to the community and another to close the so-called boyfriend loophole.

Closing the boyfriend loophole would bar intimate or romantic partners convicted of misdemeanor domestic abuse claims from possessing firearms. But Republican and Democratic negotiators haven’t yet agreed on a restitution process for current and former dating partners to regain their rights to own guns after a period of time.  

The question of restoring the gun-ownership rights of romantic partners has opened a debate about whether spouses, ex-spouses and current or former co-habitants should also have a pathway to regaining gun-ownership rights after being convicted of misdemeanor abuse charges.  

“We’re still continuing to work on it, there are still some fine points when you get to the drafting,” said Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.).  

Tillis said negotiators are “pretty close” on settling on the definition of intimate or romantic partner. 

“Then there’s the question of restoration” of gun rights of a dating partner who has been stripped of his or her gun rights, he said. 

“There are some people, not in the negotiations, but other members that feel like if you’re establishing a restoration process in connection with the boyfriend loophole, why would you [not] consider it for others?” Tillis said.   

“That’s created a lot of discussion,” he added.  

Cornyn on Thursday expressed growing impatience with the pace of the talks, which are at risk of stalling.

“It’s now or never,” Cornyn told reporters after giving Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) an update in his office.  

Cornyn also told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt in an interview that the negotiators have “run out of rope” and need to make some tough decisions on unresolved issues. 

Murphy said the precise language of the proposals to provide money to states to administer red flag laws and to close the boyfriend loophole needs to be worked out.  

“We’re at a critical moment. We always knew that landing the final agreement would be critical, but I have confidence we’ll get there,” he said.  

“I understand Sen. Cornyn’s concerns. I have a belief as with all the remaining open issues that we can figure them out,” he added.  

The failure to hammer out the final legislative text of the gun safety bill by the end of the Senate’s work week means that it probably won’t be ready for floor consideration next week.  

Next week’s Senate schedule will be compressed by the Juneteenth federal holiday on Monday.  

The chamber is scheduled to resume session at 3 p.m. Tuesday. 

If the bill text is finished over the weekend, Schumer would have to wait until Tuesday afternoon to file a cloture motion to proceed to the bill, which means the first procedural vote wouldn’t happen until Thursday.

Schumer told colleagues that he will bring a bill to the floor as soon as it is finalized.  

“We want to move quickly and decisively to make sure we don’t let this opportunity slip away,” he said.   

Now Schumer will likely have to find something else to fill the Senate schedule next week.  

The Senate is scheduled to leave town for a weeklong recess on July 1 to commemorate Independence Day.

Aris Foley contributed.