True to form, the Democratic-led House passed its first major piece of gun control legislation on Wednesday, but in a surprising twist that likely infuriated Speaker Nancy Pelosi, more than two dozen Democrats crossed the aisle to support a Republican-backed amendment to the bill.
“Universal” background check bill
The House held a vote on H.R. 8, the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019, which would implement “universal” background checks by essentially outlawing private sales and transfers of firearms without background checks conducted by licensed firearms dealers.
The bill passed by a vote of 240-190, and many pro-gun control Democrats cheered the victory.
It is unlikely the bill will be passed by the Republican-controlled Senate, and President Donald Trump threatened to veto it if necessary.
The anti-gun victory in the House didn’t come without a price for Pelosi. Republicans succeeding in adding a last-minute amendment that passed with the help of some unexpected Democratic support.
GOP amendment would notify ICE
The last-minute amendment required that the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency be notified whenever an illegal immigrant attempted to purchase a firearm, which is already against federal law.
The amendment was added to a provision of the larger gun control bill that would require local, state and federal authorities be notified whenever anybody — citizen or legal immigrant — failed a background check prior to purchasing a firearm.
Incredibly, the amendment was initially voted down along party lines while the bill was still in the House Judiciary Committee.
Nevertheless, Republicans made the usual symbolic gesture to “recommit” the bill at the last moment with that amendment, and surprisingly gained the support of 26 Democrats — the vote passed 220-209.
220-209, House Republicans win a “motion to recommit” to amend the gun bill to ensure ICE knows when an undocumented immigrant tries to buy a gun.
Awkward defeat for Democratic leaders, who pushed for a NO vote; 26 Democrats voted YES anyway.
— Sahil Kapur (@sahilkapur) February 27, 2019
Pelosi “surprised” by Dem defections
Speaking to reporters afterward, Pelosi admitted that she was “surprised” by the outcome of the vote on the Republican amendment.
But she quickly dismissed the result as “incidental” and not significant enough to overshadow the “historic victory” Democrats say they achieved with the passage of the larger gun control bill.
She can try to shrug it off. But the defection of more than two dozen House Democrats to support a Republican amendment — centered on ICE and illegal immigrants! — is nothing short of humiliating for Pelosi.