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Top Senate Democrat blocks votes on gun proposals

Published on NewsOK Modified: July 9, 2014 at 3:51 pm •  Published: July 9, 2014
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WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid blocked a parade of campaign-season votes on gun rights Wednesday that could have been a political thorn for Democrats seeking to retain control of the chamber in this fall's elections.

The Nevada Democrat used Senate procedures to prevent votes on any amendments to a bipartisan measure expanding hunters' access to public lands and renewing land conservation programs. The dozens of thwarted proposals included Republican efforts to expand gun owners' rights and Democratic attempts to toughen firearms restrictions.

In April 2013, the Senate rejected an effort to expand background checks for gun buyers and to impose other firearms curbs, four months after the fatal shootings of 20 children and six staffers at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut. President Barack Obama and top Democrats promised the drive would be renewed, but they have lacked the additional votes and faced reluctance by some lawmakers to revisit the issue.

The wide-ranging bill the Senate debated Wednesday included provisions opening up more federal lands to sportsmen, letting hunters return 41 polar bear carcasses to the U.S. that they shot in Canada and heading off government curbs against lead bullets and fishing equipment. It would also renew a program letting the Bureau of Land Management sell some land and let federal agencies use the funds to buy other properties.

The legislation was seen as a political boon to Democratic senators from GOP-leaning states who co-sponsored the bill and face competitive re-election races this November. That included the chief Democratic sponsor, Sen. Kay Hagan of North Carolina, plus co-sponsors Sens. Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Mark Begich of Alaska, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, John Walsh of Montana and Mark Udall of Colorado.

The bill was co-sponsored by 26 Republicans, 18 Democrats and one independent, a measure of bipartisan harmony rarely seen at a time of sharp divisions between the parties.

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