House Democrats Hijack House Floor For Gun Vote

Democrats are using a parliamentary trick to get a vote on the contentious legislation.
Win McNamee via Getty Images

WASHINGTON -- House Democrats used a special parliamentary procedure Thursday to force a vote on legislation that would bar people on the terrorist watch list from buying a gun.

While Democrats failed to get a vote on the actual legislation itself -- technically, the House voted, 242-173, on a motion to table the appeal of the ruling of the chair that the resolution was out of order -- Democrats will likely still use the vote to attack Republicans in the upcoming election year.

California Democrat Nancy Pelosi used her position as the minority leader to force a vote on a privileged resolution that would trigger a vote on a controversial gun measure.

That bill, written by Republican Rep. Peter King of New York, would close a "loophole" that allows people on the terrorist watch list to buy a gun. Many Republicans and outside groups contend the bill would deny due process rights to people placed on the terrorist watch list. But Democrats clearly see election-year advantages to making Republicans block a vote.

In a signal of just how committed Democrats are to using the gun issue in 2016, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee started running radio ads on Thursday blaming certain vulnerable Republicans for their refusal to take up the terrorist watch list gun legislation, using previous question votes with the gun legislation attached to make a tenuous attack. The vote on Thursday on the privileged resolution may firm up that criticism.

All week, Democrats have been making pesky motions to adjourn on the House floor in protest of the GOP leadership's refusal to give the King bill a vote following recent mass shootings. But the privileged resolution is their most serious effort to get a vote yet, borrowing on a tactic Democrats used over the summer to force Republicans to vote on a resolution removing all images of the Confederate flag from the House side of the Capitol.

The Pelosi resolution, which is 439 words long, goes after House leadership for failing to stand up to "a powerful lobby controlled by the gun industry" and ensuring "the ability of suspected terrorists to continue to buy guns."

Raising a question of the privileges of the House.

Whereas the safety of the American people is urgently at stake;

Whereas the integrity of the legislative process has been seriously undermined by the influence of a powerful lobby, causing the House leadership to prevent the American people’s representatives from considering commonsense measures to prevent terrorists from purchasing assault weapons and firearms from any licensed firearms dealer in the United States;

Whereas the first duty of Members of Congress is to protect and defend the American people, and that duty is forsaken by the failure of the House leadership to withstand the influence of a powerful lobby controlled by the gun industry;

Whereas leaders of terrorist organizations have previously urged sympathizers to exploit the United States’ lax gun laws in order to perpetrate domestic terror;

Whereas suspects on the FBI’s Terrorist Watchlist can go into a gun store anywhere in America and buy dangerous firearms of their choosing legally;

Whereas since 2004, more than 2,000 suspected terrorists have legally purchased weapons in the United States;

Whereas in that time period, more than 90 percent of all suspected terrorists who tried to buy a gun in a store in America walked away with his or her weapon of choice;

Whereas the House leadership ensures the ability of suspected terrorists to continue to buy guns and refuses to schedule legislation to close the terror list loophole;

Whereas since the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary school nearly 3 years ago, more than 1,000 mass shootings, 90,000 gun deaths, and 210,000 gun injuries have occurred; and

Whereas mass shootings and gun violence are inflicting daily tragedy on communities across America: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That—
(1) a clear and present danger exists to the American people; and
(2) in order to protect the American people and the integrity of the legislative process, upon the adoption of this resolution, the Speaker shall place H.R. 1076, the ‘‘Denying Firearms and Explosives to Dangerous Terrorists Act’’, as introduced by Congressman Peter King (Republican–NY), on the calendar for an immediate vote.

This story has been updated to include the vote count.

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