Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer is planning to ask the Trump administration to withdraw its request for $5 billion in border wall funding and redirect the funding to counter gun violence and white supremacy extremism, a person familiar with Schumer’s thinking told CNN.
The Trump administration is unlikely to be receptive to the request, especially given that the border wall is a key priority for the President. But the request will nevertheless serve as a way for Democrats to keep the issue of gun control in the news as Congress remains on recess.
In the wake of recent mass shootings, Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have been calling on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to bring the Senate back into session to pass background checks legislation that previously passed out of the Democratic-controlled House, but McConnell has resisted those calls. The House and Senate are both out of session for August recess.
In an interview earlier this month, McConnell told a Kentucky radio station that the Senate will put the issues of background check legislation in addition to “red flag” laws “front and center” when the body reconvenes after its summer recess, but indicated that the Senate will not return early from recess, despite demands from Democratic lawmakers.
The request from Schumer was first reported in Politico’s Playbook newsletter on Tuesday morning.
According to Schumer’s office, the initiatives the Democratic leader will ask for funding to go to rather than the border wall include, but are not limited to: Department of Homeland Security programs and initiatives to counter violent extremism, FBI domestic terrorism investigations and CDC gun violence research.
“The dual scourges of gun violence and violent white supremacist extremism in this country are a national security threat plain and simple,” Schumer said in a statement, adding, “it’s time the Trump administration and Republicans in congress starting treating them as such.”
“Republicans and this administration need to put their money where their mouth is when it comes to addressing gun violence and stopping the rise of domestic terrorism, especially stemming from white supremacy,” Schumer said.
On the House side, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer held a news conference Tuesday along with other House Democrats and activists, also urging McConnell to take up the House-passed legislation to expand background checks.
“He doesn’t have to vote for it,” Hoyer said of McConnell. “Every senator will have to make their own decision. But not to bring it to the floor is an abdication of his responsibility to the American people.”
Asked by CNN how concerned he was that the momentum to take action would dissipate by the end of recess, Hoyer dodged but made sure to note that House Democrats acted within a little over the first 30 days of their new majority this year by passing HR8. “It’s the time for action,” he said.
Meanwhile, Democratic Rep. Don Beyer of Virginia argued that McConnell is trying to run out the clock.
“We know exactly why he isn’t here,” Beyer said. “He is waiting for the outrage to die down, for the headlines to change, and for the people to turn the page and think about something else. But as he delays and waits for people to lose interest, 100 Americans are dying every day from gun violence.”
When CNN asked Hoyer about more than half of his caucus supporting an impeachment inquiry, Hoyer again dodged and said Democrats need to stay focused on the gun violence issue.
He confirmed that the House Judiciary Committee will come back before the end of recess to look at other gun control legislation.
Asked if Democrats will attempt to make a move on gun control legislation through the appropriations process next month, Hoyer said, “We will take every opportunity as we can.”
“We can do what we can do,” he added. “But we cannot force Sen. McConnell to do something. But the other 99 United States senators can force him to do something, and I would urge them to do so.”