Congress shrugs off guns, Zika as summer
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[July 13, 2016]
By Richard Cowan and David Morgan
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Congress is
headed for a seven-week recess without addressing gun violence, the Zika
virus outbreak and other pressing issues, amid persistent election-year
Despite recent gun violence, the House of Representatives will not vote
this week on a proposal to keep firearms out of the hands of people on
terrorism watch lists, that chamber's Republican leader Kevin McCarthy
told reporters on Tuesday.
Similarly, President Barack Obama's request for $1.9 billion in funds to
combat the Zika virus and the birth defects it can cause has been
stalled in Congress since February.
Republicans and Democrats were also at odds over spending bills to keep
the government functioning beyond Sept. 30, when current fiscal year
When Republicans took control of Congress, they vowed to get things done
but have had difficulty doing so during this election year, failing to
pass a budget or even consider Obama's nomination of Merrick Garland to
fill a Supreme Court vacancy.
Congress did, however, approve bipartisan legislation helping Puerto
Rico out of a crippling debt crisis and is trying to make progress on
legislation to improve police relations with local communities in the
aftermath of gun violence.
With barely four days left before the start of an unusually long recess,
a failure to vote on guns would postpone any possible action by the
House until at least Sept. 6, when lawmakers return.
After that, they will work only for short stints ahead of the Nov. 8
presidential and congressional elections.
Mass shootings in Orlando and Dallas, and gun violence in other cities,
has again propelled gun control to prominence. But the National Rifle
Association and its allies in Congress so far have staved off
Gun control is generally opposed by Republicans and supported by
Democrats. Some Republicans have talked about a gun bill possibly moving
through Congress in the fall, in the midst of the campaign season, but
Democrats were skeptical.
"This Congress will do nothing on curbing gun violence," Representative
Xavier Becerra of California, a member of the House Democratic
leadership, told reporters.
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House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) attends a news
conference with other Republican leaders after a Republican House
caucus meeting at the U.S. Capitol in Washington January 6, 2016.
The two sides even disagree on whether House Speaker Paul Ryan and
House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi talked about a proposal to
establish a special committee to study gun violence. Democrats say
Pelosi raised the issue with Ryan last week. Ryan's office says he
has never discussed the topic with anyone.
Republicans in the House and Senate have signed onto a $1.1 billion
Zika funding bill. But Democrats are balking over what they see as
"poison pills" attached to the money that would deny funds to
women's healthcare provider Planned Parenthood and ease some
Democrats, who warn the current legislation will not pass the
Senate, said on Tuesday that they offered to accept some Republican
provisions. But Senate Republicans insist the bill cannot be
Ryan meanwhile showcased his "A Better Way" agenda, flashing a
glossy pamphlet at a press conference listing proposals designed to
lure votes in November but do nothing this year legislatively.
Republicans have also pushed for new federal probes of Hillary
Clinton, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, on her use
of private emails while secretary of state.
(Reporting by Richard Cowan, David Morgan and Kouichi Shirayanagi;
Writing by Mohammad Zargham; Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and James
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