Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal said he is “seriously considering” pressing for a fresh debate on gun control during the Senate’s consideration of legislation to revise U.S. immigration laws.
Blumenthal said he may offer amendments to limit immigrants’ access to guns. The Senate is set to start considering the immigration measure, S. 744, next week.
“There are some common-sense gun-violence control measures that apply very logically and reasonably to the immigration bill,” Blumenthal, a Democrat, said in an interview. “I am very seriously considering offering them on the floor.”
The Dec. 14 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, in which 20 children and six adults were killed, occurred in Blumenthal’s home state. The incident prompted renewed Senate debate over U.S. gun laws, culminating in an effort to expand background checks for gun purchasers. That measure failed to advance April 17 by a vote of 54-46, with 60 votes needed to proceed.
The Senate immigration measure seeks to balance a path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. -- a provision sought by Democrats -- with enough border-security improvements to satisfy Republicans. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, said the chamber will begin work on the bill next week, and leaders are aiming for passage by July 4.
The Senate Judiciary Committee approved the measure last month.
At the urging of Democratic leaders -- who were concerned that the proposals could imperil support for the bill, particularly among Republicans -- Blumenthal agreed not to seek a vote on gun amendments while the committee was considering the legislation.
Blumenthal said he has been talking with Senators Richard Durbin of Illinois and Charles Schumer of New York about seeking a floor vote on the amendments. Durbin and Schumer, the chamber’s second- and third-ranking Democrats, respectively, are two of the co-authors of the immigration proposal.
Blumenthal said Durbin and Schumer, who support stricter gun-control laws, are “sympathetic” to his efforts, though they remain concerned that reviving the gun debate could damage the immigration bill’s prospects.
Durbin said today in an interview that he supported the substance of Blumenthal’s proposals.
“But we’re doing our best to avoid diverting the central purpose of this bill, which is immigration reform, into other very worthy areas,” he said. “I hope we don’t freight this bill with issues that could derail it.”
Durbin said no final decision had been made about which amendments Democratic leaders would allow members of their party to offer.
Blumenthal said his proposals would “continue the effort to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous criminals, or others who shouldn’t have them.”
One amendment would prohibit immigrants who aren’t permanent legal residents from buying or possessing firearms. Another would require the attorney general to notify the Homeland Security secretary in certain cases where an immigrant gun purchaser fails a background check or when a non-permanent resident buys two or more pistols or revolvers within five days.
Blumenthal said he hasn’t decided which of the two amendments he would propose on the Senate floor. “There may be others,” he added.
Schumer, Durbin and the other six senators who wrote the bipartisan Senate immigration bill have agreed that none of them will support amendments that could significantly reduce support for the legislation or alter its core provisions.
South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, one of the bill’s Republican co-sponsors, said today in an interview that Blumenthal’s proposals would be “problematic.”
“We’d open up the flood gates,” Graham said. “We need to get immigration done. We’ve had a gun debate. We need an immigration debate.”
Florida Senator Marco Rubio, another Republican author of the immigration measure, said today in an interview with Fox News that the bill’s border-security provisions must be improved to muster the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster in the Senate. Rubio is working on a proposal to give Congress a greater role in a plan to secure the U.S. border with Mexico.
“That’s the key: People don’t trust the Department of Homeland Security to do the job or to come up with a plan that will do the job,” Rubio said. “We have a lot of work to do in that regard if we even want to pass it out of the Senate.”
Reid said today that he was committed to passing immigration legislation. The majority leader has pledged to allow an open amendment process on the Senate floor.
“The bill that we have from the Judiciary Committee is not a perfect bill,” Reid said. “Legislation is the art of compromise.”
Blumenthal said he wouldn’t want his push for stricter gun regulations to scuttle the immigration measure.
“The main objective is to achieve a comprehensive immigration reform bill,” he said. “I would not do anything that mortally endangers the bill, but I am very seriously considering moving forward on at least one of those gun amendments.”
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