The Senate arms deal is a “cold shower” for House Democrats

As a bipartisan group of senators worked to negotiate a deal on gun reform legislation, President Joe Biden issued a statement saying their compromise “could represent the most significant gun safety legislation passed by Congress in decades.” “.

In the House of Representatives, Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) had a markedly different way of describing what he sees taking shape in the Senate.

“It’s a cold shower for us,” he told The Daily Beast, “to see what comes out as a so-called compromise in the Senate.”

Given the GOP’s militant opposition to gun law changes in recent years, whatever the Senate working group proposes — if they even agree — will be, as Biden described, the most significant gun-reform legislation in recent history .

Democrats know that any compromise will fall far short of the sweeping reforms they want to push through. Such are the realities of governing with the narrowest possible majority in the Senate, where 60 votes are still required to pass most bills.

It may be tense for Democrats like Raskin if a deal materializes that will be significantly tighter than the sweeping package that included long-awaited gun reforms that they passed by five Republican votes last week.

But for many House Democrats, the biggest problem isn’t that the Senate plan isn’t enough; It’s the fear that a compromise could have unintended consequences that threaten to jeopardize a long-awaited advance in the fight against gun violence.

The biggest concern for these members – mostly on the progressive wing, but also among those closer to the center – is the likelihood that legislation will include new guidelines and funding for what the group’s just-released framework calls “safety measures in “ is described and around elementary schools.”

Many Republicans have responded to the devastating Uvalde, Texas, elementary school massacre by urging schools to be “hardened”, using armed guards, arming teachers and redesigning campuses to stop shooters.

The GOP’s attempt to distract from any discussion of gun law reform with school safety proposals is frustrating Democrats, who are watching those ideas feed into the bipartisan Senate contract.

On Thursday, Rep. Jake Auchincloss (D-MA) raged to The Daily Beast that considering safety measures in schools “gives credibility to the GOP’s deranged focus on school forts.”

Senate negotiators have yet to agree on text for a bill, so it’s unclear what “security measures” for the school they will propose. But when some Democrats read that sentence, their minds go to one place: more policing in schools.

A massive federal investment in “school resource officers” — law enforcement agencies who patrol schools — was one of the key responses to the 1999 Columbine High School shooting. Extensive research into the expansion of SROs has found that the program in some What has been largely successful in these areas has just brought more low-income and minority youth into the criminal justice system.

That’s what Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) raised when asked about Senate legislation.

“Once we start opening up conversations that creep into criminal justice policy, or even intersect between youth and people with mental health issues…then we start opening cans of worms that could have a lot of unintended consequences for vulnerable communities.” , she said.

“It’s not all or nothing,” Ocasio-Cortez said of her reservations about the compromise. “It’s about doing no harm.”

If and when the bill is finalized, it will likely determine how many votes it receives in the House of Representatives, how much it satisfies such Democrats’ desire to “do no harm.” The majority of House Democrats would in all likelihood be happy to vote for some version of what the Senate is discussing, even if the language of school safety alienates some.

But current fears over the contours of a Senate deal mean House Democrats could face a tougher-than-expected vote with virtually no margin for maneuver.

At the very least, a moment that Democratic leaders might wish to mark as a major achievement on an urgent issue could instead be endured by many members as a moment of restraint.

“When you start seeing a package of written language that could be classified as bad policy rather than incremental policy from a progressive perspective, that changes things,” a senior progressive contributor told The Daily Beast. “You get to a point where it might be more difficult to vote.”

After meeting with members of the Democrat leadership in the House of Representatives on Wednesday, Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT), who is leading the Senate talks, said he thought there was “broad enthusiasm in the House for the framework.”

Despite his genuine frustration with the legislation, Auchincloss said he was “confident my constituents don’t want me to vote against a gun violence bill.”

However, other Democrats were unwilling to make a similar commitment. “We’ll just have to wait and see, but you know, not having a strong enough package is a hard pill to swallow,” Raskin said. “But it might be indigestible to take something that actually sets us back.”

If the potential compromise includes more of the gun violence prevention measures Democrats are most looking forward to, the proverbial pill of concessions to the GOP might be easier to swallow.

For example, senators from both parties appear to be unanimous on a provision that would provide states with funding to implement so-called “red flag” laws that would temporarily block individuals deemed a danger to themselves or others block access to firearms.

Another area of ​​alignment involves language to tighten background checks on potential firearms buyers between the ages of 18 and 21 — an idea that has gained urgency given that the Uvalde and Buffalo shooters were both 18 years old.

But with talks at a critical juncture this week, some key elements of the proposal are hanging in the balance.

Democrats believe they finally have a chance to close the so-called “boyfriend loophole,” which allows men convicted of assaulting their girlfriends to buy firearms when married men of similar convictions would be barred from doing so. That provision was at risk of being dropped altogether, Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), the lead GOP negotiator, said this week.

On both sides of the Capitol, Democrats have watched these developments with suspicion. “The majority of support for this bill on the Democratic side consists of people who believe that something is better than nothing,” Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) told HuffPost. “But the Republicans keep carving things down.”

But key Democrats in the House of Representatives have expressed confidence in Murphy’s ability to steer Senate talks in the best possible direction. Rep. David Cicilline (DR.I.), the sponsor of the House of Representatives legislation banning assault weapons, believes the Senate group has come far enough.

“Senator Murphy did a truly heroic job of rallying the support of 10 Republicans,” Cicilline said. “I always want to look at language, but … it brings significant advances and helps save lives.”

That’s the argument Murphy has put before the public in a week of negotiations. “Obviously that’s not all I want, but it’s life-saving, meaningful progress,” he told reporters on Wednesday. “Ultimately, I think if we put that framework into text, which we’re going to do, hopefully the Senate and House will come to the same conclusion.”

This window for long-awaited action to combat gun violence has sparked an unusual flurry of communications between the Capitol, hoping to influence the final product. Several House Democrats told The Daily Beast that they channel ideas and feedback to Senate offices involved in negotiations.

Ocasio-Cortez and a New York colleague, Rep. Jamaal Bowman, both said they were specifically trying to influence language on school safety.

Bowman, who was the principal of a Bronx middle school before coming to Congress last year, told The Daily Beast he was “concerned and worried about more cops in schools because more cops in schools usually have more blacks and browns in prison and in jails means early jail time.”

But in particular, Bowman isn’t as averse as other Democrats to the idea of ​​including some “hardening” of schools in the package, acknowledging that it could be “a small part of the solution”. He said his experience of repeated active target practice and other features of modern school safety protocol as principal gave him a unique perspective, which he brings to Murphy’s office.

Ocasio-Cortez, who said she also relays feedback to the Senate via House liaisons, also struck an upbeat note — a sign that right now, even the biggest skeptics of the Senate’s nascent plan are far from ready give up efforts.

“If this text gets it wrong, it’s going to have a really strong impact, but the text can also get it right,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “I’m confident we’re in the conversation early enough so we can help people get it right.” The Senate arms deal is a “cold shower” for House Democrats


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