WASHINGTON – In a pair of symbolic votes that underscored the partisan divide over guns, a polarized Senate voted down rival proposals Thursday that could make it harder for people the government suspects of being terrorists from purchasing firearms. The roll calls came a day after the country's latest mass shooting.
The votes demonstrated that political gridlock over curbing guns remains strong, despite the recent rash of mass shootings in the U.S. and growing attention to potential threats from terrorist groups like the Islamic State.
By 54-45, senators voted down a proposal by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., that would let the government bar sales to people it suspects of being terrorists. Though she initially introduced the proposal early this year, it received attention after last month's terror attacks in Paris.
Minutes earlier, the Senate killed a rival plan by Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, that would let the government delay firearms sales to suspected terrorists for up to 72 hours. Under that proposal, the transaction could be halted permanently during that waiting period if federal officials could persuade a judge to do so.
Senators voted 55-44 for Cornyn's proposal, but it needed 60 votes to pass.
Both votes were mostly party-line. They came a day after a shooting in San Bernardino, California, killed 14 people and wounded 21 others.
Even had the provisions passed, the proposals were going nowhere because they were amendments to a bill eliminating most of President Barack Obama's health care law, which he is certain to veto.
Democrats said Cornyn's proposal was a sham because it would be easy for a lawyer to force enough delays to last 72 hours and let gun purchases proceed.
Republicans said the government's terror watch lists include people who are included erroneously and should not be used to deny people their right to own firearms.