There will not be a House vote on the “assault weapons” ban this month.
Democrats failed to come to a compromise on how to move forward with both the ban and a police funding initiative on Wednesday. Instead of being scheduled for a vote by the end of this week, they have pushed both bills past the August recess.
“For safer communities, Members have been working on a package of critical public safety bills,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) said in a statement to Punchbowl News, which first broke the news. “As those discussions are continuing, it is clear that the House will reconvene in August in order to vote for the Reconciliation bill.”
The odds of the assault weapons ban ever getting a vote in the House are now diminished. Leadership has not been able to juggle balancing the interests of competing factions to this point. It’s unclear if they can get it done before the midterms arrive.
The bill would ban the sale of semi-automatic rifles and shotguns that are equipped with one or more features such as a pistol grip, flash suppressor, or adjustable stock. It would ban hundreds more guns by name, including the popular AR-15 rifle. It is similar in language to, though more aggressive than, the federal assault weapons ban passed in 1994. Enacting a new ban has been a key gun policy proposal from Democrats, including President Joe Biden, since the earlier ban expired in 2004.
The House Judiciary Committee cleared the bill last week with hopes of having it brought up for a full vote by the end of this week. However, the declining popularity of the ban coupled with the increasing popularity of the guns it seeks to outlaw appears to have some Democrats second-guessing the plan.
“This is a bill that destroyed the Democrats in ‘94. I guess, do we really have a death wish list as Democrats?” Representative Kurt Schrader (D., Ore.) told Politico last week. “It undermines what we already did and reemphasizes to all the people in America that are not hardcore urban Democrats that our party’s out of touch.”
The fact it doesn’t have the votes to pass the Senate regardless of what the House does has added to the difficulty of the election-year vote as well.
John Bresnahan, who has spent decades covering Capitol Hill and co-founded Punchbowl, said the bill isn’t doomed yet. He said Pelosi needs more time to try and please progressive members and those from the Congressional Black Caucus as well as moderates. The former want the ban and limits on how police funds can be used, while the latter are leery of the ban and pushing for the funding.
“I think the window is still open,” Bresnahan told The Reload. “When you get that close, you don’t just walk away from it.”
He said Pelosi can afford up to four defections from Democrats and still be able to pass the bill. With somewhere over 210 members already on record supporting the bill, leadership only needs to bring a few more on board. The failure to corral a vote before the recess is a notable setback, but Bresnahan said Democrats have until the end of September to figure out how to get their caucus to agree.
“There are always members who are, you know, ‘I’ll be with you if you need me, just don’t ask me unless you really need,'” Bresnahan said. “They always have a vote or two to play with, especially somebody like Pelosi, who’s a master of the floor.”
However, he also noted the task would get more challenging if Republican Brad Finstad wins the August 9th special election in Minnesota’s first congressional district. That would shrink the margin to just three Democratic defections. With Democrats Cuellar (Texas), Gonzalez (Texas), Golden (Maine), Kind (Wis.), and Schrader (Ore.) indicating they plan to vote against it, Bresnahan said it’s likely Pelosi will have to reach beyond her caucus to get it done.
“I do think they’re going to have to pick up some Republican votes,” he said. “They’re very, very close.”
There may be just enough votes to make it happen. Republicans Fitzpatrick (Pa.), Jacobs (N.Y.), Kinzinger (Ill.), and Upton (Mich.) all voted for the House ban on magazines that hold more than 15 rounds of ammunition. Rep. Upton’s office told The Reload he had not decided whether to support the bill last week. But Kinzinger, Jacobs, and Rep. Brian Mast (R., Fla.) have publicly supported banning “assault weapons” in the past.
Ultimately, the best tell for whether the bill can pass is whether it actually gets scheduled for a vote.
“If Pelosi goes to the floor, she will have it,” Bresnahan said.