Tuesday, March 12, 2013
Panel advances background check bill, but its path remains unclear
By Kasie Hunt, Political Reporter, NBC News
The Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday advanced legislation requiring all gun buyers to get a background check, voting along party lines to send a version of the bill to the full Senate.
But the bill passed in committee does not represent the legislative language that both sides ultimately expect the full Senate to consider.
Instead, it's a Democratic version of a background check bill, voted upon by the committee because a bipartisan group of negotiators haven't yet been able to compromise on its specifics.
"I've been talking and continuing to talk to colleagues across the political spectrum and across the aisle about a compromise approach, and I remain optimistic that we'll be able to roll one up," Sen. Chuck Schumer said at the Judiciary Committee's meeting on Tuesday. "But we're not there yet."
Senators are working on a package that would require all gun buyers to get a background check before they buy a gun. Under current law, only licensed dealers have to get a background check from a buyer before they sell a firearm. The bipartisan group had agreed on some exceptions, including one for people selling or giving guns to family members.
If that group -- led by Democrats Schumer and Joe Manchin and including Republican Sen. Mark Kirk -- can find common ground, the bill they produce is expected to become the centerpiece of President Barack Obama's gun control agenda in the Senate.
Those negotiations stalled when Republican Sen. Tom Coburn -- who carries an "A" rating from the National Rifle Association -- couldn't agree with Democrats about whether to require private sellers to keep records of the guns they sell.
Schumer and Manchin are now looking for a second Republican co-sponsor, preferably someone with a top NRA rating. They've reached out to a number of GOP lawmakers, including Sens. Jeff Flake, Susan Collins and Johnny Isakson. Schumer is now taking meetings with some of those Republicans.
Senators also advanced a school safety measure on Tuesday. That bill had bipartisan support.