Schumer: Senate Will Vote on Background Checks, Voting Rights After Break

Schumer: Senate Will Vote on Background Checks, Voting
Rights After Break 1

The Senate will vote on expanded background checks for gun buyers and a bill that would dramatically change how elections are run, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said on Thursday.

During a speech on the Senate floor and in a letter to colleagues, the Democrat said the upper chamber will turn its attention to voting rights, economic recovery and jobs with an emphasis on climate change, and health and gun safety.

“We will try to work with our Republican colleagues on a bipartisan basis when and where we can. But if they choose to obstruct, rather than work with us to deliver for American families, we must make progress nonetheless. Failure is not an option,” said Schumer, whose party holds a majority in the 50–50 Senate by virtue of Vice President Kamala Harris’s ability to cast a tie-breaking vote.

That vote wasn’t required to pass the American Rescue Plan, a $1.9 trillion bill described by proponents as a COVID-19 relief package and as critics as a liberal wishlist come to fruition, because Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) flew to his home state to attend a relative’s funeral.

The Democrat-controlled House of Representatives recently passed a number of measures that the Senate plans on taking up, including H.R. 1, a bill that would bolster federal control of elections.

The body also plans to discuss the Equality Act, which bars discrimination on the basis of gender identity of sexual orientation; the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, which sponsors say would bolster voters’ rights; and the COVID Hate Crimes legislation, which would deliver more funding to the Department of Justice and local law enforcement to combat hate crimes, especially in the Asian-American community.

In the wake of several mass shootings, Democrats in Congress also want to enact new gun restrictions, though few if any Republicans have signaled a willingness to do so. Schumer told colleagues that he’s committed to putting a ball on expanded background checks to a vote, and that he wants to “reform our broken immigration system” amid a surge in illegal immigrants.

Schumer told reporters during a press conference in Washington that he supports the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021. The legislation, crafted by President Joe Biden’s team and introduced last month by Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), would create a pathway to citizenship for illegal aliens.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) speaks as the Senate Rules Committee holds a hearing on the “For the People Act,” which would dramatically alter how elections are run, at the Capitol in Washington on March 24, 2021. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP Photo)

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on the floor, speaking after Schumer, criticized the administration for allegedly failing to address the border crisis, highlighting how Biden rolled back key Trump era provisions like his “Remain in Mexico” program.

“So what about the Democrats here in Congress? Are the House Democrats rising to the occasion with solutions? Well, not exactly. They prioritized passing another amnesty bill. They doubled down on the wrong direction and the wrong incentives,” he said.

“The situation is raising eyebrows among Democrats’ own rank and file. As one Texas Democrat put ‘when you create a system that incentivizes people to come across, that immediately sends a message.’ Here in the Senate our Democratic colleagues decided together route of obstruction. Yesterday Republicans tried to pass serious proposals to help address parts of the immigration system. Democrats rejected every single one of them.”

McConnell also took issue with H.R. 1 and its companion Senate bill, saying it would mandate same-day voter registration with virtually no restrictions and would require “big loopholes that would render voter ID almost meaningless,” while forcing every state to “legalize ballot harvesting, where paid operatives can turn in big piles of ballots with other people’s names on them.”

“Democrats want to hide behind the mantle of voting rights. What they’re really proposing is less security, less integrity, and a grab bag of changes that are deeply, deeply unpopular,” he said.

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