After throwing in the towel on Wednesday, Democrats have reached a deal that will bring the “assault weapons” ban to a floor vote on Friday.
The turnaround came after progressives, members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), and moderates inside the Democratic party agreed to delay a vote on a police funding bill and move forward on the ban. Democratic leadership had planned to package the two initiatives together as a compromise package between the factions. However, CBC and progressive members refused to consider the police funding bill.
Now, the House will move forward with just the vote on the assault weapons ban while Democrats continue to negotiate over the police funding effort.
“Today, our Democratic Majority will take up and pass the Assault Weapons Ban legislation: a crucial step in our ongoing fight against the deadly epidemic of gun violence in our nation,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) said in a message to members.
The passage of the ban would provide more liberal members of the Democratic caucus with another messaging win going into the midterm elections. It would also likely hurt members in more moderate districts, especially given the falling popularity of banning so-called assault weapons over the past few years.
The bill would ban future sales of semi-automatic rifles and shotguns that are equipped with one or more features such as a barrel shroud, flash suppressor, or pistol grip. It would ban many more guns by name, including the popular AR-15 and AK-47 rifles. It is more aggressive than the federal assault weapons ban passed in 1994.
The House Judiciary Committee moved the bill last week with hopes of having it brought up for a full vote by the end of this week. After initially saying the vote would have to be pushed past the August recess, Democrats were able to agree on the vote.
However, final passage is still in doubt as a number of moderate Democrats have either expressed skepticism about the ban or flat out said they won’t vote for it.
“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.”
Democrats only have a four-vote majority in the House. They may need support from a handful of Republicans to get the bill over the line. However, Hill watchers believe Democratic leadership can get the bill over the line.
“If Pelosi goes to the floor, she will have it,” John Bresnahan, who has spent decades reporting on Congress and recently founded Punchbowl News, told The Reload on Wednesday.
If the ban does pass the House, it is unlikely to pass the Senate. Democrats will need at least ten Republican votes to get it through the Senate, and a companion bill there has only garnered 37 co-sponsors.