WASHINGTON — House Democrats on Tuesday exercised their new found muscle as the majority party passing a resolution to terminate the national emergency declaration President Donald Trump made earlier this month to finance his border wall.
The Democrats plan to follow up that vote on Wednesday by passing legislation to strengthen background checks for gun purchases — a policy goal that Connecticut lawmakers have sought since the mass school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012. A vote setting the parameters for debate and a vote Wednesday on the gun bill was approved 227-194.
Connecticut Representatives John Larson, Rosa DeLauro, Joe Courtney, Jim Himes, and Jahana Hayes are co-sponsors of the disapproval resolution and the gun safety bill.
The disapproval resolution was introduced by Rep. Joaquin Castro, a Texas Democrat, and co-sponsored by 232 Democrats. One Republican co-sponsored the bill, Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan. It was approved in the House Tuesday, 245 to 182, with 13 Republicans in support and no Democrat opposed.
Proponents expect the resolution will be approved by the Senate, setting up a likely veto by President Trump — a first in his tenure. The House and Senate would need a two-thirds majority to overcome a veto — a difficult hurdle to overcome given the number of House Republicans who stood by Trump’s decision to circumvent Congress to pay for his wall.
Himes said Tuesday afternoon that he believes there is “a pretty good chance” the Senate will pass the disapproval resolution and send it to the President. The Senate would likely take up the resolution in mid-March. The Trump administration, however, has already issued a statement saying they would recommend a veto.
“Congress could override it,” Himes said but added that achieving the needed two-thirds majority would be “a stretch.” Instead, he expects the issue will be litigated — another tough prospect for Democrats since the judicial branch is hesitant to wade into disputes between the executive and legislative branches.
Himes said he supported the resolution to overturn Trump’s emergency decree because he does not believe the nation faces a true emergency on the border and that the funding issue is otherwise a simple disagreement between the executive and legislative branches where the Constitution clearly says Congress appropriates funds.
Rep. Norma Torres, D-Calif., cited Trump’s own admission that he didn’t have to declare an emergency but did so that the wall could be constructed faster. “That is not an emergency, she said.
Republicans spoke in favor of Trump’s declaration saying they believe there is a national emergency at the border. In particular they pointed to illicit drugs — including Heroin and Fentanyl — being smuggled across the Mexican border.
The background check bill was introduced by Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Calif., who said it would make “all our communities safer” by closing loopholes that have allowed individuals to purchase guns without a background check.
“This is an important time in our nation’s history,” he said on the floor. “Since the tragedy in Newtown this House has held 54 moments of silence but we have not held one moment of action. With Speaker (Nancy) Pelosi’s leadership we now have a chance to vote.”
On December 14, 2012, a gunman walked into a Newtown elementary school and shot 20 children between six and seven years old as well as six adult staff members before taking his own life. Since then another 1,973 mass shootings have occurred in the United States, according to a running tally at Vox.com.
The bill would extend federal background check requirements for gun purchases to online sales, gun shows, and private sales while allowing a few exceptions including guns to be inherited as well as guns loaned temporarily to another person for use at a gun range or for hunting.
It is co-sponsored by 227 Democrats and five Republicans. The Senate, where Republicans hold the majority, is unlikely to bring the bill up for a floor vote despite ongoing efforts by Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., to move forward with gun safety legislation. Another bill up for a vote would lengthen the time for background checks to be conducted.
Several Republican lawmakers spoke against the bill saying it would not have prevented any of the mass shootings that have occurred in the United States, but would impose unnecessary burdens on law-abiding gun owners.
Rep. Richard Hudson, R-N.C., took issue with Thompson’s characterization that the House has ignored gun violence since Sandy Hook.
“Republicans did take action to increase mental health funding and to provide schools resources to protect students,” he said.
Hudson urged rejection of the background check bill saying it would be ineffective, arguing Congress should focus on policies that “will actually make a difference.”
Maryland Democrat Jamie Raskin scoffed at the idea Republicans were interested in reducing gun violence noting that they had proposed legislation in the last Congress to eviscerate strong state permitting laws for carrying a concealed weapon as well as a bill to legalize silencers — a prospect, he said, seemed more a policy agenda of “organized crime.”
The NRA tweeted on Tuesday that HR 8 “is just another attempt by the anti-gun Left to infringe upon our rights” in a message urging NRA member and gun owners to contact congress in opposition.
Nicole Hockley, founder and managing director of Sandy Hook Promise whose son Dylan was killed at Sandy Hook, took to social media Tuesday urging support for passage of the background check legislation noting polls show strong public support for the policy.
“#UniversalBackgroundChecks are more popular than Netflix, football, and Beyonce. It’s time for our lawmakers to vote for what their constituents want,” she wrote on Twitter.