A bipartisan arms deal approved by Mitch McConnell is hitting most House Republicans with a thud.
About a third of the Republican Senate conference helped the package move forward Tuesday night. But that means little in the House, where even supporters are warning they don’t expect anywhere near the same GOP vote ratio if the bill passes the Capitol.
House GOP Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) will whip Republicans to vote against the Senate agreement, a leadership aide told POLITICO. Scalise and minority leader Kevin McCarthy told members in a closed conference meeting on Wednesday that they will oppose the Senate agreement, a sign of where most Republicans are expected to land.
“It is a betrayal of Republican voters. It doesn’t deserve those senators critical acclaim that will last,” said Rep. Dan Bishop (RN.C.) on the Senate agreement.
“I don’t think it smells good at all,” said Rep. Brian Babin (R-Texas). “I feel the bill will open the door to unnecessary gun regulation.”
It is the latest rift between not only the GOP leadership of the House and Senate, but also ordinary members of the past year and a half. It covered everything from a bipartisan infrastructure deal and raising the debt ceiling to how to deal with the fallout from the January 6 attack on the Capitol.
“My pause, my concern, is due process over these red flag grants,” said Rep. Andy Barr (R-Ky.), adding that while he and McConnell “agree on a lot of things… vote the same way.”
That gap played out in real time on Wednesday. Shortly after McCarthy and Scalise announced their opposition, the Senate minority leader publicly praised the bill as a Republican victory.
“It’s different this time. This time, the Democrats came our way and agreed to advance some common sense solutions without rolling back the rights of law-abiding citizens. The result is a product that I am proud to support,” said McConnell.
sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), a McConnell ally who helped lead the deal, also presented a slideshow at the GOP Senate luncheon Wednesday aimed at countering criticism from conservatives. In addition, Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) proposed an alternate deal for the conference, according to Senator Mitt Romney (R-Utah), that would provide “more money for police in schools” and increase penalties for those who use firearms. committing a crime.
Cornyn’s first slide touted “conservative wins,” including law enforcement funding, that it will “affect only violent criminals and those classified as mentally ill” and that the improved background checks for young people would disappear after 10 years, a source familiar with his presentation told POLITICS.
Cornyn also used the slideshow to list provisions that had been included in the bill at the request of the NRA, including money for hardening schools and waivers to plug the so-called boyfriend loophole, which restricts the right to firearms for those who abused their romantic relationship. partners, including that it would be retroactive.
Those assurances did little to convince House Republicans.
“A lot of people here don’t seem to understand the meaning of conservative,” Bishop said of McConnell and Cornyn touting the deal as a Republican victory.
House Republicans debated the Senate arms deal during their meeting Wednesday morning. Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.) characterized the Republicans as “mixed feelings” coming out of the conference.
“I heard people on both sides of the problem,” Bacon said. “I heard a man who’s going to support it. A man who will resist it.”
The Republican leadership of the House is expected to formally urge members to vote against the Senate agreement on Wednesday. And the conservative House Freedom Caucus announced it would oppose the Senate accord, citing particular concerns about a provision that would incentivize states to create so-called red flag laws, which would allow the seizure of firearms if someone is considered a danger to self or others .
“Red flag laws permit the preemptive seizure of firearms from Americans without due process by allowing a person to report a gun owner to the police and petition for the seizure of that person’s firearms, even before the gun owner has a chance to defend himself,” the ultra-conservative group said in a statement.
The House Freedom Caucus added that Senate Republicans should “use every procedural tool at their disposal to ensure that members of Congress are given adequate time to study and analyze any bill of law arising from Senate negotiations.” .”
Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas), a member of the group, wondered why Senate Republicans would negotiate the bill with Democrats, given that Democrats have “stated goals to take away our firearms.”
But the Senate GOP gun package picked up at least one GOP supporter shortly before the meeting. Rep. Tony Gonzales (R-Texas), who represents the community of Uvalde, Texas, where a gunman killed 19 children and two adults at an elementary school in late May, announced in a Twitter thread Wednesday morning that he would support the legislation.
Gonzales was not among the five House Republicans who voted in favor of the House Democratic arms deal earlier this year. That bill would, among other things, raise the age for buying a semi-automatic weapon, require background checks for ghost weapons and ban the sale of high-capacity magazines.
“As a Congressman, it is my duty to pass laws that never violate the Constitution while protecting the lives of innocents. In the coming days, I look forward to voting YES” to the Senate bill, he tweeted.
But the universe of potential GOP “yes” votes to the Senate arms deal likely remains small, closely matching the number of Republicans who voted for provisions of the House’s previous law.
Asked whether the size of the Senate GOP’s support for the arms deal affected the House GOP’s universe of yes votes, Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), one of the GOP yes voices, shrugs: “Not really.” He estimated that “about 15 or 20 of us” would vote on Senate gun laws.
Upton also pointed to the GOP’s votes on last year’s bipartisan infrastructure deal as another potential bellweater for the House Republican ‘yes’ votes on the Senate arms deal. At the time, 13 members of the Republican House supported the agreement. However, the political dynamics of supporting road and bridge development are very different from those of a gun reform package in the House GOP, which has long seen even tighter measures as a prelude to further restrictions on Americans’ gun rights.
Bacon, one of the House Republicans who backed the infrastructure deal last year, Wednesday praised McConnell as a “smart man” and Cornyn as a “great person,” but said he was undecided on the Senate deal.
“The topline stuff sounds good, but I want to read the bill because I think the sticking point has always been due process with a red flag,” Bacon said. “I think it sounds promising on the high-level side.”
CORRECTION: In an earlier version of this report, Rep. Tony Gonzales spelled wrong.