“Indecision and delay jeopardize the likelihood of a bill because you can’t write what is undecided and without a bill there is nothing to vote on,” tweeted Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, who was among the lawmakers who left town Thursday.
Senators have been racing against the clock to try to nail down the details translating an agreement announced this past weekend
into actual legislative text, with fears that the passage of time could slow or halt the momentum to pass a bill.
Cornyn told reporters earlier that the two major sticking points in the framework are the so-called “boyfriend loophole,” which deals with whether unmarried partners could have guns if they were found guilty of violence against a dating partner, and the distribution of funds for alternative crisis intervention programs, with Democrats wanting to use those funds to incentivize states to pass red flag laws.
“The challenge of course is to translate those principles into text,” Cornyn told conservative radio show host Hugh Hewitt Thursday morning. “People like to come back and try to renegotiate things all the time, and I think, … we’ve about run out of our rope here, and we got to make some final decisions today if we’re going to be able to get this on the floor next week.”
This comes as Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat from New York, said again Thursday morning he’d like to bring the gun safety bill to the floor for a vote next week.
Senators in the negotiating group have been working on these same details all week — including at a meeting Thursday — and haven’t been able to resolve differences on the framework.
Later on Thursday, Cornyn told reporters he has been pushing for federal grants to not only incentivize states to pass red flag laws, but also to fund other forms of crisis intervention programs.
“I think we’re in a better place in terms of the grants to states that have crisis intervention programs,” he said.
He added: “Some of those are, like in 19 states, are red flag. We want to make sure that due process is protected because we’re talking about a fundamental constitutional right. But there are other states like mine, and like Arizona that have crisis intervention programs that we want to see benefit from these federal grants as well.”
Cornyn noted that closing the boyfriend loophole was one piece that delayed reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act for years, which is why it is “a hard issue” for negotiators.
Asked if they could drop that out of the final legislation, Cornyn replied, “I think that’s one option.”
Lawmakers face enormous pressure to get something done after devastating mass shootings in Uvalde, Texas, and Buffalo, New York, but negotiators are acutely aware the effort could fall apart at any time or another issue could emerge that takes their focus away, such as major decisions coming down from the Supreme Court. Those are key reasons they are trying to finish as quickly as possible.
This story has been updated with additional developments Thursday.