One day after nine people were killed during a rampage at a community college in Oregon — the 45th school school shooting this year alone — Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called on House Speaker John Boehner to establish a select committee to address gun violence in the United States.
In a letter to the Republican on Friday, Pelosi said the committee would propose “common sense” legislation to help reduce deaths caused by gun violence.
“The epidemic of gun violence in our country challenges the conscience of our nation,” she wrote. “The bipartisan committee would be charged to present its recommendations to the House within 60 days — in time for a vote before the third anniversary of the Newtown shooting this year.”
The California congresswoman also urged Congress to adopt a bipartisan measure to close loopholes in the background check system, preventing criminals and people with severe mental illnesses from buying guns.
Lawmakers have long struggled to pass meaningful gun control legislation, particularly in light of a Republican-controlled Congress and a heavy lobbying presence by the National Rifle Association.
“How can we in good conscience engage in moments of silence to honor these victims of gun violence, if we refuse to take action,” Pelosie asked. “We take a solemn oath to protect and defend the American people. We must not accept the horror of gun violence as routine.”
Pelosi’s call for action on gun violence comes as Republicans are seeking Boehner’s successor. The speaker abruptly decided last week to resign from Congress at the end of October. His announcement came amid scathing criticism from Republican lawmakers who accused him of failing to fight the Obama administration on conservative issues integral to the GOP establishment.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy is considered the favorite in line for the speakership. Former speaker of Florida’s House of Representatives Daniel Webster announced on Sept. 28 that he would make a bid for the role, and Utah Congressman Jason Chaffetz also plans to join the race, NBC News reported.
On Friday, President Obama said the speaker’s race “complicates” negotiations to secure federal funding — a fight hinging on some Republican lawmakers’ insistence that Planned Parenthood be stripped of federal funds. Congress, which passed a temporary spending bill on Wednesday, currently faces a Nov. 5 deadline to raise the nation’s debt ceiling and a Dec. 11 deadline to again pass a bill to keep the federal government functioning through 2016.
Establishing a special committee to probe specific issues is not rare in Congress. A GOP-led select committee is currently investigating former secretary of state Hillary Clinton’s handling of the September 2012 attacks in Benghazi that left four Americans dead. Democrats argue that Republicans are using the panel primarily as a means of damaging the Democratic front-runner’s presidential campaign.
That claim gained steam this week when McCarthy attributed Clinton’s drop in polling numbers to investigations by the Benghazi special committee. His comment infuriated many Republicans because the party has long defended the committee as being not politically motivated, but instead centered on uncovering the truth behind how the attacks were handled by Clinton’s State Department. McCarthy and other Republicans, including Boehner, have since worked to walk back those comments, but they cast some doubt on his position as a shoo-in for the speakership.