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Democrats Seek to Link Gun Violence Measure to Funding Bill

  • Cindy Saine

FILE - Democrats are pushing a measure to get rid of a provision banning federal funding for gun violence research from the budget bill.

FILE - Democrats are pushing a measure to get rid of a provision banning federal funding for gun violence research from the budget bill.

One day before U.S. government funding authorization was set to expire, the Senate on Thursday passed a short-term, five-day measure to keep the government running past Friday.

The House is expected to pass a similar measure Friday. And the White House says the president will sign it, which would avert any agencies shutting down.

But both chambers still will have to pass a massive government spending bill next week, before they leave town for a long holiday recess. Negotiations are ongoing, and the main obstacles to an agreement between Democrats and Republicans are a number of policy measures, called riders, that both sides attach to the spending bill.

On Thursday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi introduced a new aspect to the budget standoff with Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan. Pelosi and other Democrats are pushing a measure to get rid of a provision banning federal funding for gun violence research from the budget bill.

Republican leaders are virtually certain to reject Democrats' demand to eliminate the 17-year-old provision, known as the Dickey amendment, in the year-end funding bill. Asked about the measure at his weekly news conference Thursday, Ryan told reporters he was not going to conduct sensitive budget negotiations in the media.

FILE - Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, Dec 3, 2015.

FILE - Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, Dec 3, 2015.

Republicans enacted the ban on federal research into gun violence by the Centers for Disease Control in 1997, after lobbying by powerful groups such as the National Rifle Association. Gun rights supporters say government agencies use studies to advance gun control legislation.

Efforts to force gun control action

House Democrats have responded strongly this week with efforts to highlight Congress' inaction on gun violence after a spate of recent mass shootings, including the one in San Bernardino, California, last week that left 14 people dead. They staged protest votes on the floor of the House on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

They held two separate gun violence forums. At a forum Tuesday, former U.S. surgeon general David Satcher said that for almost 20 years, Congress has prevented the United States from taking a public health approach to gun violence. He said the Centers for Disease Control, or CDC, had dramatically reduced the number of smoking deaths by taking a public health approach, but Congress is keeping it from doing the same thing for victims of gun violence.

Satcher called for the ban on federal gun violence research to be lifted, and also called for universal background checks for firearm purchases. He and other witnesses at the panel also support a bill sponsored by Republican Peter King, which would prevent people on a government terrorist watch list from buying firearms.

King is one of only a handful of Republicans who support the bill, and he told reporters he does not believe the measure will be part of the spending bill. Most Republicans say people can end up on the so-called "no-fly" list by mistake, and they reject any gun control legislation, saying the Second Amendment to the Constitution protects Americans' rights to own guns.

FILE - House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, April 23, 2015.

FILE - House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, April 23, 2015.

Asked about Pelosi's attempt to link government spending to removing the ban on federal funding on gun violence research, Republican Representative Scott Perry told VOA he is not yet familiar with it, because of the constantly changing nature of the current budget negotiations. But he said he would have to question whether the CDC would be the right organization to study gun violence.

Perry said he feels the focus should be on the link between mental illness and gun violence, to try to prevent more mass shootings in the future.

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