The coalition behind the gun bill exposes a sharp Republican split in the Senate

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Tuesday’s Senate vote to advance a narrow, bipartisan deal to tighten federal gun laws was, on one level, a political miracle, with 14 Republicans joining Democrats to challenge the National Rifle Association and conservative critics — in an election year, no less.

However, from another perspective, strong Republican opposition to a bill that introduced only relatively incremental amendments to existing gun laws after an escalating series of mass shootings, demonstrated the resilience of hardline views on gun rights and highlighted dwindling forces at home. The Republican Party in the Senate is ready to cut modest deals with the Democrats.

Tuesday’s 64-34 test vote, which put the bipartisan Safer Communities Act on track for passage later this week, provided a road map for how to continue governance on sensitive issues in a divided era — so carefully, with right-wing players, and under circumstances Occasion.

No player was more important than Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), who was named the Senator’s trusted deputy leadership. John Cornyn (R-Tex) in the wake of the May 24 massacre at an elementary school in Ovaldi, Texas, explained that it was time — unlike in the past — for Republicans to make a deal on gun violence.

“This time is different,” McConnell said Wednesday in a speech formally endorsing the deal Cornyn negotiated. “This time, Democrats came our way and agreed to offer some common sense solutions without reneging on the rights of law-abiding citizens. The result is a product that I am proud to support.”

However, McConnell finds himself in the minority of a divided Republican convention – a situation he usually tries to avoid.

Supporting the deal in Tuesday’s test vote were only 13 Republicans, including three due to retire next year and another six, like McConnell, not re-elected until 2026. Another pro-deal Republican who did not vote on Tuesday, Senator. Patrick C. Tommy (R-Pen), is also retiring.

Among the 34 Republicans who did not vote on Tuesday were several members of McConnell’s leadership team — including the senator. Jon Thune (SD), no. 2 Republican Party leaders, the senator. John Barrasso (Wyo.), The No. 3 – The number of members of the Senate who publicly flirted with the candidacy for the presidency.

Some of those Republicans were among the most vocal on Wednesday in publicly opposing the deal and warning of a possible conservative backlash that could drive supporters of the deal out of power. One of them, Senator. Josh Hawley (R-Mis.), summed up his voters’ reaction to the bill as “outrage.”

“People are just pissed that this bill doesn’t do anything meaningful to tackle the national crime tide. It doesn’t do anything meaningful to address the escalating attacks on police and civilians.” I mean, in Missouri, we have record numbers of homicides and car thefts, he said. Violent crimes are everywhere. And this law does nothing about it.”

After Cornyn gave a final presentation to colleagues at a Republican lunch in the Senate on Wednesday — to emphasize mental health and law enforcement funding in the bill as well as tougher gun control provisions that were left out — Barrasso and the senator. Ted Cruz (R-Tex) proposed voting on a different bill that would eliminate gun measures altogether, and instead focus only on mental health and school security provisions.

Public dissatisfaction was also expressed by a broader group of Senate conservatives, including the senator. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.), who told reporters his office phones were “lighting up” with callers who “we’re disappointed we had 14 Republicans voting for this…because the Republican base put this over the top.”

When asked about McConnell’s role, he said, “There are a lot of frustrated people… all over the place.”

Meanwhile, in the House, senior leaders quickly distanced themselves from the Senate dealmakers — House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and minority whip Steve Scales (R-LA) telling their members just hours after the House vote. Senate on Tuesday that they will oppose it.

A memo sent Wednesday from Scalise’s office to GOP lawmakers said the bill represented an “attempt to slowly diminish the rights of the Second Amendment to law-abiding citizens” and that it “contains insufficient protective barriers to ensure that money actually goes toward keeping guns out of the country.” from the hands of criminals or prevent mass violence.”

“I am against it 100 percent – 100 percent,” the deputy said. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), prominent conservative leader in the House of Representatives. “This is the wrong thing to do, and I hope it doesn’t happen.”

McConnell told reporters on Wednesday that it was “not at all unusual” for members of his party to have opposing views. “We see that a lot,” he said.

Indeed, McConnell has blessed several bipartisan deals with Democrats since the Republican Party entered the minority in the Senate last year, including a $1.2 trillion infrastructure deal, a sweeping industrial policy bill to boost US competitiveness with China, postal reform and other that. In each case, McConnell and his allies said, the desire to demonstrate cooperation and progress on matters of public concern outweighed the political risks to achieving victory for Democrats.

However, the gun violence posed a particularly potent test, and Ovaldi’s tragedy came at a particularly sensitive moment — amid a midterm primaries season where many Republican senators have faced or are about to face their primaries against more conservative rivals.

But McConnell’s allies said there was political rationale for the decision to strike a modest deal with Democrats and to demonstrate to the public that the Republican Party was not a steadfast obstacle to taking action to stem the drumbeat of mass shootings.

“I think the state wants us to find common ground in the area of ​​unstable people using guns, and try to get better information into the system to stop some of these shootings,” the senator said. Lindsey O. Graham (Republika Srpska). When you’re dealing with 80% support for these ideas, that’s a national consensus. And, you know, 20 percent — I respect their opinions, but when the audience says, “Can’t you just do something?” The answer is yes.”

Senator. Thom Telles (RN. Democratic Party Bill.

“If you take a look at what we haven’t done — no mandatory waiting periods, no ban on any guns that can be legally purchased today… I think it makes sense and I think the majority of the American people would agree with it,” he said.

However, the political reality of Tuesday’s election was stark, with the deal backed mainly by Republican senators more insulated from the electoral fallout. Even the two Republican senators running for re-election this year who voted to advance the deal on Tuesday reflect that basic dynamic: Monday. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) is counting on independent and Democratic voters to survive her re-election bid against a more conservative Republican challenger, the senator. Todd C. Young (R-India) emerged unopposed from the May 3 primary.

Young said Wednesday that it was not a guaranteed vote in favor of the final bill, saying it was still “absorbing the actual language.” But he praised the mental health and school security funding in the bill and called the gun provisions “very reasonable.” He said that if a conservative reaction to the bill was brewing, it would not be reflected in his component comments.

“The calls are about 10 to 1 in my office – 10 in favor of reasonable prohibitions” on allowing dangerous people to have access to firearms, he said. “For me, it’s just about listening to my constituents and responding, and sometimes the government really needs to do that — to be responsive.”

However, the pressure created has gone in the opposite direction to the senator. Cynthia M. Lummis (R-Wyo.), who has expressed some openness to narrow-arms provisions this month. On Wednesday, she said, voters in Wyoming who called her office had turned “significantly” against the pending deal.

“Everyone is now concerned about the violation of Second Amendment rights,” she said.

Senator. Roger Marshall (R-K.S.), who voted against introducing the deal on Tuesday, summed up the message he received from voters as follows: “Stand tall. … don’t give up, leave no room in the Second Amendment.”

However, he declined to criticize McConnell or other Republicans for embracing the deal and predicted that any political fallout among the GOP base would be fleeting: “I feel like we have a good team now, that we’re together, and that we’re going to go there and agree to disagree after that. And I think at the end of the day. Today…people back home are so caught up in inflation, gasoline prices, that this is not a top 10 issue for them.”

For many of the Republicans who support the deal, going forward, any electoral consequences are not at the heart of the matter. “I’m not sure it’s good policy,” the senator said. Mitt Romney (Utah). “It’s going to save lives – which is why it’s so good.”

Mariana Sotomayor contributed to this report.

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