Democrats punt votes on assault weapons, police

House Democrats have pushed votes on community safety and assault weapons legislation into next month, allowing negotiators more time to work out lingering disagreements over the details of the police provisions.

The announcement was made by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who noted that the House will be returning to Washington in August to consider a Senate health care bill, providing a new window of time to iron out the differences on the community safety and firearms bills.

“As those discussions are continuing, it is clear that the House will reconvene in August in order to vote for the Reconciliation bill,” Pelosi said in a brief statement. “We are grateful to all our Members for promoting our shared values reflected in specific legislation that we can all support.”

Party leaders were hoping to move both bills — separately, but under the same rule — this week, before the House heads into the long August recess. A number of vulnerable Democrats want to secure a victory on the community safety portion in order to take a victory to their districts ahead of the midterms — and defray GOP attacks that Democrats are hell-bent on “defunding” the police.

But liberals have balked at what they consider a lack of accountability measures in the police bills. Both the Congressional Black Caucus and the Progressive Caucus huddled on Capitol Hill late into the night on Tuesday, discussing a path forward. Their concern, according to several members, is that Congress will provide new funding to police agencies around the country without new safeguards and oversight measures designed to rein in police abuse, particularly in minority communities.

Shortly after noon on Wednesday, the Rules Committee announced that it was postponing its meeting to send the packages to the floor. There was no mention of a new date.

With the lower chamber expected to be called back to Washington during the August break to vote on a Senate reconciliation bill, House lawmakers are eyeing that window as an opportunity to move the safety and assault weapons bills, as well.

“We’re still working out the final points, and so I think the goal is to get it to the right place,” said Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.), a sponsor of one piece of the policing package. “That’s more important than doing it today or tomorrow.

The assault weapons ban is expected to move separately from the policing package. But Democratic leaders want to combine them under the same rule in order to ensure that both can survive defections from liberals who might oppose a rule on the policing package if it stood alone.

Other party leaders are also downplaying the significance of the delay, noting there was a hope — but never a hard deadline — to move the bills this week.

“There’s nothing magic about Friday. We’re gonna come back in August, most likely, and we’re gonna be back in September,” said Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), chairman of the Rules Committee. “So we’re going to get all of this right, and make sure that everyone’s comfortable with how we’re proceeding.”