McConnell taps Cornyn to negotiate with Democrats on gun legislation

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Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Thursday gave the greenlight to bipartisan talks on legislation to curb gun violence, revealing that he has asked Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), one of his advisers, to negotiate with Democrats.

McConnell said he is hopeful of reaching a bipartisan agreement to respond to the recent mass shootings in Buffalo, N.Y., and Uvalde, Texas. But the leader cautioned the negotiations should not veer off onto proposals not directly related to the recent violence in Texas that left 21 people dead, including 19 school children.

“I met with Sen. Cornyn this morning,” he told a reporter for CNN, noting that Cornyn traveled to his home state Wednesday to meet with state officials and law enforcement in Uvalde.

“I’ve encouraged him to talk to Sen. Sinema, Sen. Murphy and others who are interested in trying to get an outcome that’s directly related to the problem,” he said, referring to Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.).

“And so I am hopeful that we could come up with a bipartisan solution that’s directly related to the facts of this awful massacre,” he said.

McConnell emphasized he’s interested in coming up with legislation that directly addresses the circumstances of the school shooting in Texas and does not advance the Democratic agenda.

“What I’ve asked Sen. Cornyn to do is to meet with the Democrats who are interested in getting a bipartisan solution and come up with a proposal, if possible, that’s crafted to meet this particular problem,” he said.

McConnell declined to speculate on how much time Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) would allow the negotiations to go on before bringing gun control measures to the Senate floor for a vote, but expressed hope that a bipartisan bill could pass.

“I’m going to keep in touch with them, and hopefully we can get an outcome that can actually pass and become law rather than just scoring points back and forth,” he said.

McConnell’s encouragement is a key development, as it could give political cover to 10 or more Republicans to sign on to red flag legislation. A proposal of this kind has been sponsored by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) to incentivize states to take firearms away from people judged a danger to themselves or others.

McConnell’s support for bipartisan infrastructure talks last year paved the way for the Senate to pass a $1 trillion infrastructure bill with 69 votes.

A group of five Democrats and three Republicans met in the basement of the Capitol Thursday afternoon to begin laying out a path for negotiations with a focus on expanded background checks and red flag legislation.

The meeting included Murphy, Sinema, Graham, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.).

Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) attended the meeting by phone.

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