Senators Grasp for a Bipartisan Gun Deal, Facing Long Odds


The bill, known as the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act, would establish three new offices — one each in the F.B.I., the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security — to monitor, investigate and prosecute domestic terrorism. It would require biannual reports assessing the domestic terrorism threat posed by white supremacists, with a particular focus on combating “white supremacist and neo-Nazi infiltration of the uniformed services.”

It was first introduced in 2017, but Democratic leaders moved quickly to resurface it following the shooting in Buffalo. In that shooting, the gunman appeared to have been inspired by the white supremacist “great replacement” theory, which holds that Western elites are plotting to disempower white people by replacing them with people of color.

After the school shooting in Uvalde this week, Democratic leaders framed the domestic terrorism bill as the best vehicle for quick action on gun violence prevention measures. Mr. Schumer promised to allow debate on proposed changes to the bill from both parties to address gun violence if Republicans allowed it to move forward.

But in a party-line vote, Senate Republicans rejected even considering the measure, arguing that the bill was unnecessary and defined extremism in a way that could be too broadly construed by law enforcement. The vote was 47 to 47, leaving Democrats short of the 60 votes needed to move forward on the bill.

Its failure meant that the Senate left for the Memorial Day recess without any legislative action to address the two mass shootings.

Democrats have instead staked their hopes for gun safety legislation on the bipartisan negotiations led by Mr. Murphy. Multiple senators said their preference was to see if there was a deal to be had before taking another preordained vote on legislation that is doomed to fail in an evenly divided Senate.

“We’ve all made it clear where we stand on individual legislation many times in this place,” said Senator Martin Heinrich, Democrat of New Mexico. “What we haven’t done is passed legislation very damn often, so I’m just trying to be open-minded.”

Mr. Murphy, who had asked Mr. Schumer for time to pursue negotiations, hosted a group of senators in his basement hideaway office in the Capitol on Thursday, including multiple veterans of failed negotiations over gun legislation.

In an interview later in the day, Mr. Murphy conceded that he was embarking on a difficult task: trying to find a solution for gun violence that 10 Republicans could support, enough to break a filibuster.

“We’re trying to put enough Republicans in the room, maybe not so that we’re guaranteed 60 votes, but so that we have a much better shot at it,” he said. “And we’re also being realistic.”