Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell speaks to reporters in the U.S. Capitol in Washington, May 17, 2016.
Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

The House-passed background-check bill awaits GOP action

Updated

Even if they wanted to, members of Congress wouldn’t be able to tackle policies to address gun violence anytime soon: lawmakers won’t return from their summer break until early next month. Several Democratic senators, however, spent yesterday urging Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to call members back to Capitol Hill.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., called on the Republican leader to end the chamber’s break to vote on a universal background check bill after the two shootings – one in Dayton, Ohio, and another in El Paso, Texas – left at least 29 dead and 53 injured in a matter of just 13 hours. The Senate is currently in recess until September.

“One awful event after another. Leader McConnell must call the Senate back for an emergency session to put the House-passed universal background checks legislation on the Senate floor for debate and a vote immediately,” Schumer said in a statement.

I’ll go out on a limb and guess that McConnell will ignore Schumer’s suggestion, though I was glad to see the Democratic Senate leader reference the pending legislation.

It didn’t generate a lot of attention at the time, but it was six months ago when the Democratic-led House passed the Bipartisan Background Checks Act (H.R. 8) – one of the Dems’ top legislative priorities for this Congress – that would require background checks on all gun purchases, including at gun shows. The final vote was 240 to 190.

It was the first time either chamber of Congress had passed a bill intended to reduce gun violence since 1994 – a quarter of a century ago.

The legislation then went to the Republican-led Senate, where it proceeded to gather dust. Donald Trump, after spending months talking about his support for a background-check bill – a sentiment he seemed to endorse again this morning – issued a veto threat, vowing to reject the proposal if it reached his desk.

But even if there was a president in the Oval Office who took the issue seriously, there’s still a do-nothing Senate to contend with. The New York Times published a report the other day, before the latest mass shootings, on the inactivity in the upper chamber.

Seven months into a new era of divided government, the Republican-led Senate limped out of Washington this week after the fewest legislative debates of any in recent memory. […]

The number of Senate roll call votes on amendments – a key indicator of whether lawmakers are engaged in free and open debate – plummeted to only 18 this year, according to a review of congressional data. During the same time period in the 10 previous Congresses, senators took anywhere from 34 to 231 amendment votes. […]

[T]he Senate’s legislative record on domestic issues has been so thin that a number of Republicans were left grasping for words when asked to name the chamber’s most significant legislative achievement this year.

Those hoping to see McConnell’s Senate vote on measures to protect Americans from gun violence should probably keep expectations low.