WASHINGTON — Senator John Cornyn, the leading Republican in talks aimed at ironing out bipartisan legislation to address a plague of U.S. mass shootings, urged the top Senate Democrat on Monday to give negotiators sufficient time to either reach a deal or fail.
Cornyn and other lawmakers, Democrats and Republicans, were due to meet on Monday and hope to reach an agreement on gun legislation by the end of the week, after a wave of mass shootings in Buffalo, New York; Uvalde, Texas; and Tulsa, Oklahoma.
The negotiations have the approval of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and his Republican counterpart, Mitch McConnell. But Republicans are concerned that Schumer could soon make good on his pledge to begin voting on Democratic gun legislation if the talks appear to be fruitless.
“I hope the Democratic leader will allow bipartisan discussions to continue and then conclude before he pulls the plug and schedules show votes on something he knows can’t pass,” Cornyn said in a floor speech.
“Good consensus legislation takes time,” the Texas Republican added. “The only way we can get a bill that can pass both chambers and earn the president’s signature is by taking the time and reaching that consensus.”
Schumer’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The negotiations have raised hopes of a rare bipartisan agreement on gun-related issues in Congress, which is characteristically paralyzed by partisan rancor on the issue.
With the 100-seat Senate split 50-50, gun legislation would need 10 Republican votes to meet the chamber’s 60-vote threshold for passing most bills.
But Republicans, who as a party staunchly defend the U.S. constitutional right to bear arms under the Second Amendment, have rejected initiatives such as bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines used in many U.S. mass shootings.
While the White House and Congress struggle to agree on a response to the wave of shootings, the U.S. Supreme Court this month is expected to rule on a New York case that could bring a sweeping expansion of gun rights.
The leading Democrat in the negotiations, Senator Chris Murphy, also said that getting substantial legislation in place would take time.
“I hear the skepticism about how big this package can be. But I’m not going to support anything that doesn’t save lives,” Murphy, a leading advocate for gun restrictions, told NBC News. “I’m not going to support something that just checks a box.”
Both Murphy and Cornyn said talks were focusing on a handful of issues that include legislation to encourage states to adopt red flag laws to deny firearms to people with mental health issues, upgrade school security, strengthen mental health services and keep guns from people legally prohibited from having them.
The Democratic-led House of Representatives is expected to vote this week on legislation limiting gun purchases. Cornyn predicted the legislation would never gain the Republican support needed to succeed in the Senate, calling it a “doomed partisan bill.” (Reporting by David Morgan Editing by Bill Berkrot)