Befuddled By Trump, Senate Will Not Vote On Gun Measures Next Week The White House meeting confused and frustrated many Republican lawmakers, who were seeking clear guidance from Trump on a gun bill he would sign that could attract GOP votes in Congress.

Befuddled By Trump, Senate Will Not Vote On Gun Measures Next Week

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AILSA CHANG, HOST:

It's looking increasingly likely that Congress will not act to reduce gun violence. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said today that the Senate has no immediate plans to hold a vote on any gun bills, and it's moving on to a banking bill next week. This comes just a day after President Trump summoned a bipartisan group of lawmakers to the White House and challenged them to pass legislation that would prevent future mass shootings.

To talk about all of this and other news, we are joined by NPR congressional reporter Kelsey Snell. Hey, Kelsey.

KELSEY SNELL, BYLINE: Hi, Ailsa.

CHANG: So the Senate started this week with high hopes that they could vote on a very narrow bill to update the background check system for gun buyers. How did that high hope evaporate so quickly?

SNELL: It all started falling apart yesterday after that televised meeting at the White House. Republicans came back here to the Hill from that meeting completely confused about what the president wants and what he's willing to support. And, you know, this was all happening at the exact same time as that background check bill was racking up more than 50 cosponsors in the Senate. And that's a...

CHANG: Wow, yeah.

SNELL: ...Pretty big number here in the Senate. And Republicans were still trying to digest everything today. And the mood was, well, kind of befuddled. I was talking to Senator John Thune in this noisy hallway in the basement of the Capitol. He's a member of GOP leadership from South Dakota. So I asked him, how do they plan to take what the president said and turn it into legislation? And this is what he said.

JOHN THUNE: I don't know.

(LAUGHTER)

THUNE: You guys saw - you saw it, right? It was wild. I just - I think the president's going to have to narrow his list of issues that he would like to see addressed and figure out what's realistic.

SNELL: That was a pretty standard response from a lot of Republicans I talked to. There's just confusion.

CHANG: Is there any reason to believe that Republicans will use this extra time to regroup and then eventually vote on that bill?

SNELL: It is still possible. But Republicans are really deeply split. And the meeting at the White House just added to the divide. Even those people who are inclined to support the narrow background check bill are kind of afraid to commit to something right now. A gun vote of any kind is a political risk for both parties. And I've not talked to a single Republican who wants to vote on a gun bill without a clear sense that the president will actually sign what they vote on.

CHANG: Right.

SNELL: And that meeting yesterday did not provide them with that kind of comfort. And most Republicans say today that they're open to discussions but wouldn't go any further where a couple of days ago, it seemed like they were trying to coalesce around this background check bill.

CHANG: OK. I want to turn to other news out of the White House...

SNELL: Sure.

CHANG: ...Today that President Trump plans to impose steep new tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. This doesn't seem like something Republicans would like.

SNELL: Yeah, absolutely. We are seeing a flood of Republican statements opposing the tariffs. And even House Speaker Paul Ryan said that he hopes that the president will consider the unintended consequences of these tariffs. And reporters were literally reading reports of the tariff announcement to senators as they left a weekly policy lunch and headed to vote. I was standing in these scrums just off the Senate floor as Republicans learned about the tariffs, and they were very clearly upset.

This is, again, an example of a time when the president met with lawmakers. And there was a public record of their conversation. And Trump chose to go against their guidance and the position that the majority of the members of his own party take.

CHANG: I mean, if you look just back a few months ago, Republicans were pretty unified in pushing through the tax bill at the end of last year. Are we seeing some trust in the president crumbling?

SNELL: Yeah, Trump came to Washington promising to shake things up, and that's certainly what he's doing. But lawmakers are frustrated that he seems to be doing it without much of a strategy. There was a time when most Republicans I talked to said they were willing to see Trump's shifting positions and rogue approaches refreshing, and now I'm hearing them openly say that they don't know what the strategy is.

And it seems like there was kind of a shift after DACA, the immigration fight and the shutdown. And we've long heard them say that the White House isn't particularly reliable as a negotiating partner. But we're now seeing it impact legislation more clearly. And it sets up a potential for a really unproductive year.

CHANG: All right, that's NPR's Kelsey Snell. Thank you, Kelsey.

SNELL: Thank you.

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