House Democrats announced a last-minute vote on a bill to ban assault weapons on Friday, looking to pass the highly anticipated legislation before lawmakers break for the August recess.
In a letter to colleagues just after 11 am on Friday, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said the House would vote on the assault weapons ban that afternoon, calling the legislation “a crucial step in our ongoing fight against the deadly epidemic of gun violence in our nation.”
The House took a key step toward passing the assault weapons ban Friday morning, approving a resolution for same-day authority that allows the chamber to fast-track top priorities.
The chamber approved the resolution in a largely party-line vote of 218-206. Res. Jared Golden (Maine) and Kurt Schrader (Ore.) were the only two Democrats to oppose the measure.
The House is slated to debate and vote on the bill later Friday. During her weekly press conference on Friday, Pelosi said she expects the measure to pass.
The House Judiciary Committee advanced the assault weapons ban last week, which was the first time in more than 20 years that a congressional panel had moved a measure to outlaw the sale, transfer and possession of the popular firearms. Democrats last enacted an assault weapons ban in 1994, but it expired 10 years later.
Pelosi announced on Wednesday that the House would delay votes on the assault weapons ban and community safety legislation to give lawmakers more time to negotiate remaining disagreements on police provisions.
Democrats initially planned to move the assault weapons ban and community safety legislation under the same rule, but some liberals have raised issues with a lack of accountability in the police bills. Pelosi ultimately decided to separate the two measures and take up the assault weapons ban on Friday, punting the police funding legislation to a later date.
Pelosi on Friday said the House will take up the police funding and public safety measures in the second week of August when the lower chamber reconvenes to consider other legislation.
Liberal Democrats, particularly those in the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), have been opposed to the idea of providing local police agencies with more funding without guardrails and enhanced oversight measures designed to rein in police abuse, which disproportionately affects minority communities.
Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio), who leads the CBC, had a long discussion Thursday with Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.), a principal sponsor of one of the policing bills, to work out the kinks. And during House votes Friday morning, Beatty and other members of the CBC met for another lengthy talk with Rep. Josh Gottheimer (DN.J.), who has sponsored another piece of the policing package.
Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), chairman of the House Rules Committee, said negotiators needed a little more time to work out those wrinkles.
“We’re developing some consensus around it,” McGovern said. “They’re working on accountability and they’re making progress.”
With that in mind, the vote on the community safety package will likely come in two weeks, McGovern said, when the House is expected to return to Washington to consider a climate, health and tax package the Senate is taking up next week.
“Providing that nobody else in the Senate gets COVID, and the skies are clear so they can land, and they get the paperwork over to us, then we’ll [return],” he said. “It won’t be next week, it’ll be the week after.”
Mike Lillis contributed. Updated at 1:46 pm