White House: 'Shameful Display of Cowardice' by Senate in Voting Down Gun Measures

June 21, 2016

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Tuesday that the U.S. Senate had engaged in a "shameful display of cowardice" in defeating gun measures the previous day.

Speaking with sympathetic MSNBC host Joe Scarborough, Earnest said he had no other way to describe what happened on the Senate floor, saying Republicans were afraid of the National Rifle Association.

Bills were proposed by both Republicans and Democrats, and they were largely supported or opposed on party lines. This included one by Sen. John Cornyn (R., Texas) that would delay a gun sale to a suspected terrorist for 72 hours but would require prosecutors to show probable cause in permanently blocking the sale.

"I think the reaction from the White House is simply that what we saw last night on the floor of the United States Senate was a shameful display of cowardice," Earnest said. "There were common sense bills that were put forward that should have drawn strong, bipartisan support that would prevent individuals who are currently suspected of having ties to terrorism from being able to buy a gun, and we should actually strengthen our background check laws to close loopholes that prevent people from being able to circumvent those background checks."

"And the reason that I described it as cowardice is I don't know what else to call it. Cowards are people who talk really tough in the hope that they will not be asked to actually act and do something, and the truth is that's exactly what Republicans have done. Republicans have run around and spent the last week saying radical Islamic extremism to anybody who will listen, but when it actually comes to preventing those extremists from being able to walk into a gun store and buy a gun, they're AWOL. They won't do anything about it because they're scared of the NRA. That's shameful."

The dueling gun amendments were all defeated when they failed to reach 60-vote thresholds.

Sen. John Cornyn’s (R., Texas) plan, which is backed by the National Rifle Association, to delay gun purchases by terror suspects for 72 hours while the FBI investigates the purchaser but requires a legal review before a permanent denial can take place received the most support with 53 votes for and 47 votes against.

Senator Dianne Feinstein’s (D., Calif.) alternative, which provides the attorney general the power to block sales of guns to terror suspects without having to file charges, go through a court review, or obtain a conviction against the purchaser, received 47 votes for and 53 votes against it.

Another Democratic proposal, introduced by Chris Murphy (D., Conn.), sought to extend federal background checks to gun sales between private parties. It failed by a vote of 44 to 56.

Sen. Chuck Grassley’s (R., Iowa) proposal to increase funding to the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System and incentives for states to send more mental health records to the system also failed with 53 votes for and 47 votes against.