The leader of the Democrat-controlled Senate on Tuesday dropped a proposed assault weapons ban from the chamber’s gun-control package – dealing a blow to supporters of the ban, though it could still come up for a vote.
The sponsor of the measure, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., revealed that Reid told her the proposed ban would not be in the initial package. Feinstein said she's "disappointed" with the decision, and is expected to nevertheless offer it as an amendment.
But the move by Reid to cut it from the main bill signals a lack of congressional support for a proposal that would not only revive, but strengthen, the decade-long ban that expired in 2004.
The proposed ban passed was passed last week by the Senate Judiciary Committee, along with three other measures. The others dealt with providing more school safety aid, expanding federal background checks on potential gun buyers and helping authorities prosecute illegal gun traffickers.
Feinstein has led the gun-control charge since President Obama called for federal legislation in the wake of the Newtown and other mass shootings.
The assault weapons ban was the most controversial of the major proposals to restrict guns that have been advanced by Obama and Senate Democrats. Because of that, it had been expected that the assault weapons measure would be left out of the initial package the Senate considers, with Democrats hoping the Senate could in turn amass the strongest possible vote for the overall legislation.
There are 53 Democrats in the Senate, plus two independents who usually vote with them.
Having a separate vote on assault weapons might free moderate Democratic senators facing re-election next year in Republican-leaning states to vote against the assault weapons measure, but then support the remaining overall package of gun curbs.
Gun control supporters consider a strong Senate vote important because the Republican-run House has shown little enthusiasm for most of Obama's proposals.
Feinstein said Reid told her there would be two additional votes. One would be on her assault weapons ban, which also includes a ban on ammunition magazines that carry more than 10 rounds. The second would just be on prohibiting the high-capacity magazine clips.
Many Democrats think the ban on large-capacity magazines has a better chance of getting 60 votes than the assault weapons ban.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.