The lead Republican negotiator in US Senate dialogue toward a bipartisan gun safety bill walked out of the talks on Thursday, dimming the likelihood of a vote on the legislation before senators leave for a two-week July 4 recess.
Senator John Cornyn told reporters that he had not abandoned the negotiations, but he was returning to Texas amid difficulty reaching agreement.
“It’s fish or cut bait,” he said. “I don’t know what they have in mind, but I’m through talking.” Other senators in the huddle remained inside the room.
The bipartisan group has been working on a deal to curb gun violence since a gunman killed 19 school children and two adults in the small city of Uvalde, south Texas, just 10 days after a separate gunman killed 10 people in an act of stated racist violence against Black people in Buffalo, New York.
The group of lawmakers, gathered by Connecticut Democrat Chris Murphy, announced a framework on measures to curb gun violence on Sunday. It did not go as far as Democrats, including US president Joe Biden, had sought, but would still be the most significant federal action to combat gun violence to emerge from Congress in years if passed.
But in the days since, the talks have become bogged down in disagreements over two main provisions: how to provide incentives to states to create so-called red flag laws, in which guns can be temporarily taken away from people deemed dangerous, and the “ boyfriend loophole,” allowing authorities to block abusive spouses from buying firearms, but does not cover people who aren’t married.
Cornyn, whose home state of Texas does not have a red-flag law and is considered unlikely to enact one, wants the funding for that provision to cover other efforts towards tackling mental illness issues, such as “crisis intervention programs.”
Cornyn said earlier on Thursday negotiators would need to reach agreement that day to have legislation ready in time for a vote next week.
Midterm elections that decide which party controls the congressional chambers are in November, making the time window to pass any new legislation ever narrower.