Facing a conservative revolt, Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) on Wednesday expressed confidence that anti-terrorism legislation would receive a vote on the House floor before Congress leaves town next week for the long summer recess.
“I think there is still a path forward …” Ryan said at a news conference after a closed-door meeting with rank-and-file Republicans. “Yes, we are [confident] because we feel this issue needs to be addressed.”
The anti-terror package is the GOP’s response to the Orlando massacre in which a gunman who pledged allegiance to the Islamic State killed 49 people and injured 53 others at a gay nightclub.
The package contains a National Rifle Association-backed provision to make it harder for suspected terrorists to buy firearms.
But the House Freedom Caucus, the bloc of about three dozen ultra-conservative hardliners, came out in opposition to the package, saying it doesn’t do enough to combat radical Islamic terrorism and doesn’t protect due-process rights for gun buyers.
In addition, the Freedom group said significant portions of the bill did not go through the committee process that Ryan has previously said he is committed to.
Democrats say gun control is the proper response to the Orlando shooting and are pushing for a vote on a more restrictive bill that would completely bar suspected terrorists from being able to purchase guns.
Rep. Dave Brat (R-Va.) said he’s doubtful the GOP package could pass in its current form, a sentiment echoed by many of his Freedom Caucus colleagues.
“It does not have the votes in its present form,” Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) told The Hill. The Freedom Caucus “will be making several recommendations to improve the bill.”
One possibility may be to split the gun and anti-terrorism provisions into two votes, since the gun provision is more controversial.
“We want to make sure we get it right. The last thing we want to do is rush something to the floor that we don’t have right,” Ryan said as he held up a pocket-sized copy of the Constitution. “This matters to us; this is the Constitution. …
“We want to make sure we codify a practice of making sure that terrorists don’t get guns while preserving citizens’ rights. We can have security and keep to the Constitution at the same time,” he added. “That’s why we’re gonna get it right and do it when we’re ready.”