Dems Lose 'Embarrassing' Gun Control Amendment Vote After Multiple Defections

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) / Getty Images
February 27, 2019

In a rare move, a Republican amendment to gun legislation brought to House floor by Democratic leadership was adopted after multiple defections from moderate Democrats.

The House voted Wednesday on H.R. 8, the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019. The bill would expand background checks to include all gun sales, rather than just sales by licensed gun dealers as under current law.

Republicans in the minority countered with an amendment to require that federal officials notify Immigration and Customs Enforcement whenever a lawful or unlawful immigrant tried to illegally purchase a firearm. That measure, opposed by most Democrats, was voted down when the bill was still in the House Judiciary Committee.

When Democratic leadership brought H.R. 8 to the full floor for a vote, Republicans made a motion to recommit the bill with the ICE amendment, usually a last-ditch symbolic action taken by the minority party with little chance of success. But in a surprising development, the motion passed 220-209, with 26 Democrats joining the Republicans.

Assessments from most reporters were harsh, calling the vote a "huge floor embarrassment for Democrats" and an "awkward defeat for Democratic leaders."

The passage of the ICE amendment represents only the second successful motion to recommit since May 2010. Republicans also successfully cajoled Democrats into passing a motion to recommit earlier this month with a resolution condemning anti-Semitism. The National Republican Congressional Committee telegraphed then that the vote would force Democrats to adopt other motions, arguing, "Democrats can no longer claim that these types of votes are merely procedural and not substantive."

The final bill, complete with the ICE notification requirement, passed the House 10 minutes later with a vote of 240-190. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) told reporters that the successful Republican tactic was a surprise, but called it "incidental" to the "historic" bill's passage.