House Speaker Nancy Pelosi expressed optimism that Congress could come to an agreement on gun legislation despite a contentious hearing on the matter on Wednesday.
“It’s important because our children are being shot in the classrooms,” she said.
Throughout the day, the House Oversight Committee listened to testimony from survivors of the massacre in Buffalo, New York and Uvalde, Texas. The hearing was contentious at times. Republicans accused Democrats of having “used” witnesses for the hearing.
One of the students who survived the shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde – Miah Cerrillo – described how she smeared blood on herself as the gunman stalked her.
The House is set to vote on gun legislation later Wednesday.
But the legislation in the House is far more comprehensive than it is in the Senate, where a bipartisan team is currently negotiating the details.
“I don’t know but I’m optimistic”, Ms Pelosi told The Independent on the prospects of a deal.
The current round of bipartisan negotiations are being led by Republican Senators John Cornyn of Texas and Thom Tillis of North Carolina while Senators Chris Murphy of Connecticut and Kyrsten Sinema are representing the Democratic side. Along with that central group, there is a broader bipartisan group of Senators negotiating details
“We had a very positive discussion with the broader group today,” Mr Tillis told The Independent. “Consensus on a lot of the framework, and I would expect to continue to build on it.”
Mr Tillis said the group still has a large amount of legislative text in the mental health space in negotiations since they are using an existing piece of legislation.
Senator Susan Collins of Maine was non-committal when she asked why the Senate would not consider a ban on assault rifles despite the pleas from some of the family members of victims killed in the mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas last month.
The Maine Republican is one of a bipartisan contingent of senators negotiating on gun legislation. Republican Senators John Cornyn of Texas and Thom Tillis of North Carolina are leading negotiations with Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Chris Murphy of Connecticut.
“I think we’re continuing to make progress and everyone wants to get to a goal,” Ms Collins told reporters.
Ms Collins’ words come as many gun control activists have flooded the Capitol to lobby for lawmakers. Activists in blue shirts from March for Our Lives, the group started by student activists after the 2018 shooting in Parkland, filed in and out of the Dirksen Senate Office Building. Activists from Moms Demand also were on Capitol Hill this week.
Kimberly Rubio, the mother of Lexi Rubio who was killed at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, expicitly called for a ban on assault rifles during the House Oversight hearing.
“We seek a ban an assault rifles and high capacity magazines,” she said. “We understand that for some reason, to some people, to people with money, to people who fund political campaigns, that guns are more important than children.”
But Ms Collins didn’t directly address the question.
“Well first, all of these issues are being discussed by our work group, and what we want is to get a package that can pass,” she said, adding that she had met with families of loved ones who died in the Sandy Hook shooting in 2012. “And they’re encouraged by what we’re doing.”
Representative Ruben Gallego of Arizona, who is considering challenging Ms Sinema in the Democratic Senate primary in 2024, said he wil keep an eye on Senate negotiations.
“I want something to come out that’s impactful and will actually save lives, I think we have to accept the scenario that we’re not going to get everything we want, we also shouldn’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good”, he said.
When asked whether he thought Ms Sinema could get Republicans onboard, he said “I hope that that’s the case”, before reiterating he would rather there be a good outcome that makes people safer.
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