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Republicans Stonewall Brady Bill

By William J. Eaton
and Karen Tumulty

Los Angeles Times


Senate Republicans blocked passage of the Brady gun bill Monday night on the eve of adjournment even though Senate and House negotiators had agreed on a final version of the measure.

Senate Minority Leader Bob Dole, R-Kan., said the compromise, which sought to reconcile differences between the House and Senate measures, was worse than the version passed by either chamber.

Dole complained that the Senate-House conference discarded important provisions that were put into the bill after five days of negotiations in the Senate that led to its approval there Saturday. "The reward we got was zero, zippo," Dole said.

Dole's objection, in which he was joined by 18 other senators, scuttled plans to have the compromise approved by a voice vote in the Senate. Dole predicted that opponents could indefinitely delay the legislation by filibuster and could muster the 41 votes needed to prevent the Senate from invoking cloture to end the delay.

"Under these conditions I don't believe cloture will be invoked this year or next year," he said.

Senate Majority Leader George J. Mitchell, D-Maine, scheduled a session Tuesday to try to revive the measure, which would impose a five-day waiting period on handgun purchases to allow time for background checks. But Dole indicated that he would continue to oppose Senate approval of the bill.

Mitchell also has indicated that he would summon senators back to Washington after Thanksgiving to complete action on the bill. The House was expected to approve the measure before it quits for the year, leaving the Senate the last barrier to its enactment.

The Brady bill, which appeared dead for this session of Congress late Friday because of a Republican-led filibuster, got a new life the next day when opponents agreed to allow a revised version of the legislation to come to a vote. It passed the Senate, 63-36.

House proponents of the measure, however, objected to some of the new provisions on grounds that they would undercut existing gun laws.

The Senate-House conference got off to a rocky start when Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, who is a board member of the National Rifle Association, said he would not accept any changes in the Senate-passed bill.

"You want a bill or don't you want a bill?" a red-faced Stevens shouted.

But Rep. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., chief author of the House-passed bill, was equally livid.

"We cannot live with just the take-it-or-leave-it Senate position," Schumer said.

Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., D-Del., added with unusual sarcasm: "Once again ... a minority is attempting to dictate to the majority ... forget these guys."

Schumer protested that one Senate change would exempt "millions of guns, many of them semi-automatics" from the law. The change would classify as antiques any guns made before 1919, instead of 1898.

He also protested another Senate provision that would allow gun dealers to cross state lines, contending it would allow a flood of guns from states with less regulation to states that had tighter regulations.