“Not even planning a vote”: Amid pleas for gun legislation, Senate skips town for 10-day vacation

Despite mounting calls to address gun violence after Uvalde shooting, Schumer admits chances of gun bill are "slim"

Published May 26, 2022 11:01AM (EDT)

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) speaks to the press following a Democratic caucus meeting on May 25, 2021 in Washington, DC.  (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) speaks to the press following a Democratic caucus meeting on May 25, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

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The U.S. Senate is set to adjourn Thursday afternoon for a 10-day recess without taking any concrete steps to address the nation's deadly epidemic of gun violence, following a pattern of inaction that has prevailed in the decade since the worst school shooting in the nation's history in Newtown, Connecticut.

In the aftermath of the second-deadliest school shooting on record—the massacre of 19 children and two adults at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas earlier this week—there is little hope that Congress will move decisively to alter the country's lax gun laws as Republicans beholden to the National Rifle Association and Democrats committed to the legislative filibuster continue to obstruct progress.

"Enough is enough. We must abolish the filibuster and pass gun safety legislation NOW," Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., wrote on Twitter Wednesday. "No one in America needs an AR-15. How many more children, mothers, and fathers need to be murdered in cold blood before the Senate has the guts to ban assault weapons and take on the NRA?"

Democratic leaders in the upper chamber have tasked Sen. Chris Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat and outspoken advocate for gun-safety measures, with seeking bipartisan compromise, an approach that has failed for years despite the thousands of mass shootings that have occurred across the U.S. since the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School atrocity.

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., one of the Senate's most vocal filibuster defenders, is also holding talks with Republicans on gun legislation. With the filibuster intact, Democrats will need to find at least 10 Republican votes to advance a bill.

In a video update posted to social media late Wednesday, Murphy—who represented Sandy Hook's district in the House at the time of the 2012 shooting—said he is unwilling to "accept that the Senate is going to do nothing in the face of this horrific slaughter."

Just this year, there have been 27 school shootings in the United States.

"I don't accept the status quo," said Murphy. "While I'm sober-minded about our chances of getting 60 votes in the Senate, I can tell you that today, we made progress. I spent all day talking to every single Republican and every single Democrat that was willing to enter into a discussion about how we change our gun laws."

"My hope is that over the course of the week and next week, we're going to have a group of Republicans and Democrats in the Senate talking about how we can find common ground," Murphy added, mentioning "limited but significant improvements to our background check system" and so-called "red flag laws" as potential areas of compromise.

There's not yet any indication that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., intends to cancel the chamber's Memorial Day recess in an effort to expedite progress.

In a floor speech on Wednesday, Schumer slammed the GOP's "obeisance to the NRA" and persistent refusal to support even "the most simple, sensitive, positive, and popular gun legislation." On Friday, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, former President Donald Trump, and other prominent Republicans are expected to speak at the NRA's annual gathering in Houston.

"My Republican colleagues can work with us now," the Democratic leader said. "I know this is a slim prospect. Very slim. All too slim. We've been burnt so many times before. But this is so important."

Later Wednesday, Schumer vowed that the upper chamber is ultimately "going to vote on gun legislation" whether or not Republicans cooperate.

petition launched by MoveOn in the wake of the Uvalde massacre implores Schumer to "cancel recess, stay in D.C., hold votes, and deliver" legislative action on gun safety, a demand that came as students across the U.S. planned walkouts and other mobilizations aimed at ramping up pressure on lawmakers.

"Congress can act quickly—both houses passed new laws regarding security for Supreme Court justices after the leaked draft showing that right-wing justices are prepared to overturn Roe v. Wade," reads the petition, which has garnered more than 72,600 signatures. "Our senators and representatives took action on that measure within 24 hours."

"But the Senate isn't even planning a vote before recess following the deadliest school shooting in a decade, which came on the heels of mass murders in Buffalo, New York, and Laguna Hills, California within the past ten days," the petition continues. "Democrats in the House already passed critical gun violence prevention legislation earlier this Congress—we need Senate action to send these bills to the president."

By Jake Johnson

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