By Paul Kane, Published: March 21
Gun control will be the first order of business in the Senate when lawmakers return in April from their two-week holiday break.
Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) formally moved a package of gun-related bills onto the legislative calendar Thursday night, setting up the most serious debate on gun control in Congress in more than a decade.
While it will not include a ban on assault weapons — Reid said Tuesday that proposal has less than 40 Senate votes behind it — the package will include provisions for a universal background check system, stricter federal criminal laws for gun trafficking and provisions to improve school safety.
Coming in the wake of the December massacre at a Connecticut elementary school, the most aggressive provision remains the background check proposal. A bipartisan collection of senators, led by Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), have been trying to reach an agreement on the checks but have hit a stumbling block on how to maintain records for private gun sales.
Reid remained hopeful that the senators could reach such a deal.
“I hope negotiations will continue over the upcoming break to reach a bipartisan compromise on background checks, and I am hopeful that they will succeed,” Reid said. “If a compromise is reached, I am open to including it in the base bill.
“But I want to be clear: In order to be effective, any bill that passes the Senate must include background checks.”
He also said that the bill will be amended on the floor and will likely take several weeks of debate before it comes to a vote.
“The bill I advance tonight will serve as the basis for opening debate. Once debate begins, I will ensure that a ban on assault weapons, limits to high-capacity magazines and mental health provisions receive votes, along with other amendments,” Reid said.