Senate approves bipartisan arms deal for first time in three decades, leaving Biden needing victory

WASHINGTON β€” Fifteen Republican senators joined Democrats in passing the largest weapons security package in three decades, sparking a rare moment of discord over a politically divisive issue and a much-needed victory for President Joe Biden.

The bill’s passage was a huge shift in a Republican Party that has always been a firewall against attempts to restrict gun rights.

But the lead GOP negotiator on the arms deal, Texas Senator John Cornyn, said the legislation saves lives without infringing on Second Amendment rights.

sen. Connecticut’s Chris Murphy, the Democrat chief negotiator, has been fighting for reform since the Newtown elementary school mass shooting in December 2012.

His efforts were renewed last month after a mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas prompted him to appeal to his colleagues. from the Senate floor: “What are we doing?” he asked during a widespread speech.

sen.  John Cornyn, R-Texas, was the chief architect of the Senate arms deal for the GOP.

sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, was the chief architect of the Senate arms deal for the GOP.

Senators finally passed the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act 65-33 Thursday night after nearly two months of impassioned floor debates, harrowing hearings and the influence of actor Matthew McConaughey.

‘I don’t feel safe at school’: 11-year-old Uvalde survivor fears more shootings; other gun hearing takeaways

The deal now goes to the House, where it is expected to pass Friday, despite House GOP leaders encouraging their members to vote against.

However, Republican Representative Tony Gonzales, who represents Uvalde, Texas, said he will vote in favor of the legislation.

“As a congressman, it is my duty to pass laws that never violate the Constitution while protecting the lives of innocents,” he said in a statement on Wednesday. β€œIn the coming days, I look forward to voting YES to the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act.”

Even without a single GOP representative, House Democrats have a majority to pass the bill without Republican support and send it to Biden. It is a development that the president can at the same time tout as an achievement when his poll numbers drop, while Americans become more frustrated with inflation and bleak economic forecasts.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement to members Thursday evening that the bipartisan gun bill would go to the rules committee early in the morning and then “we will immediately go to the floor” for final approval.

Gun laws could be on the president’s desk tomorrow.

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Biden and other Democrats had pushed for a broader package than what’s included in the Senate agreement, including a ban on assault weapons and limited gun sales to anyone under the age of 21.

But the president has said several times, “the perfect must not be the enemy of the good.”

Democrats and Republicans both got what they wanted in the Senate agreement, including $15 billion for mental health and school security services.

The legislation will provide each state with grants as an incentive to pass “red flag” laws, allowing courts to remove firearms from those deemed a threat to themselves or others. States that don’t pass red flag laws can use the money for other crisis prevention programs.

The senators also approved extensive background checks on gun buyers 21 and under to include their mental health and juvenile justice records. The law forces the seller and authorities to wait 10 business days to complete the assessment.

Such a review could have stopped mass shootings last month in Buffalo, New York and Uvalde, Texas, as well as a mass shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015, senators said.

The legislation also closes the so-called ‘friend in the law’, a legal gray area that leaves some women vulnerable to gun-related domestic violence.

Current law prohibits perpetrators of domestic violence from purchasing weapons if they have abused their spouses or live-in partners with whom they had children. Senate legislation would extend the law to “boyfriends” or partners in a current or recent relationship “of a romantic or intimate nature” who have been convicted of domestic violence.

“This provision alone will save the lives of so many women who sadly die at the hands of a friend or ex-boyfriend hunting them down with a firearm,” Murphy said.

While senators may begin their two-week July 4 recess on a high note, the arms deal is unlikely to end the firearms debate anytime soon. Democrats have said they will continue to push for more reform, and Republicans are now busy with the issue in the meantime, claiming the deal unnecessarily restricts the right to own firearms.

Looking forward: Congress could approve Senate arms deal, but a bigger, tricky standoff is unlikely to shift

“Upset Whatever Happens”: Arms deal with Senate leaves voters on both sides dissatisfied, frustrated

Candy Woodall is a congressional reporter for USA TODAY. She can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @candynotcandace.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Senate approves historic two-pronged arms deal, gives Biden needed victory

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