By Gregg Re
Published August 08, 2019
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wrote directly to President Trump on Thursday to demand that he use a little-invoked constitutional power to recall the Senate from its recess so it can address gun violence.
The move would essentially represent an end run around Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, whom top Democrats have urged to bring Congress back. Congress is not scheduled to return until the second week of September.
"Today, as speaker of the House, I am writing in good faith to request that you call the United States Senate back into session immediately under your powers in Article II Section 3 of the Constitution to consider House-passed bipartisan gun violence prevention legislation," Pelosi wrote.
That constitutional provision, which also states that the president should deliver information on the State of the Union "from time to time," holds that the president "may, on extraordinary Occasions, convene both Houses, or either of them."
In her letter, Pelosi made clear she felt the circumstances met that threshold.
"This extraordinary moment in our history requires all of us to take extraordinary action to save lives," Pelosi said.
Pelosi specifically referenced the House-passed Bipartisan Background Checks Act and the Enhanced Background Checks Act. Some of the House-sponsored legislation would extend the time period for the FBI to conduct background checks on firearm purchases from 3 days to 10 days, and establish new background check procedures for private guns transfers.
The measures apparently would not have prevented this weekend's shootings, but proponents said they could halt similar mass killings in the future.
Pelosi also quoted Trump's remarks after the recent mass shootings in Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas, when he said: “I think background checks are important. I don't want to put guns into the hands of mentally unstable or people with rage or hate, sick people. I'm all in favor of it.”
Pelosi and Sen. Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., released a joint statement late Thursday saying they had talked with Trump.
“We spoke to the President separately this afternoon and told him the best way forward to address gun violence in our country is for Leader McConnell to let the Senate take up and pass the House-passed universal background checks legislation and for the President to sign it into law," Pelosi and Schumer said.
"The President gave us his assurances that he would review the bipartisan House-passed legislation and understood our interest in moving as quickly as possible to help save lives," they wrote.
Several prominent Democrats have urged McConnell to bring back the Senate. In North Las Vegas this weekend, Bernie Sanders became one of multiple 2020 Democratic presidential hopefuls to do so.
He said the Senate should "have a special session to address gun violence in America and let us finally have the courage to take on the NRA."
New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, who's also seeking the party's presidential nod, backed up Sanders' call in a tweet: "This is a national crisis. Mitch McConnell needs to bring the Senate back from recess right now and hold votes on legislation to protect Americans from gun violence. Enough. We need to end this carnage now."
Another rival for the nomination, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, R-Mass., said the "public health crisis" of gun violence mandated a special session of Congress.
“We should vote within 48 hours on the two background check bills that have already passed the House,” Warren said. “It’s not everything we need to do on gun safety, but we could take important steps, and we could demonstrate to the American people that the gun manufacturers are not the ones who are calling the shots in Washington.”
McConnell has been resting at his Kentucky home since fracturing his shoulder recently. On Thursday, he told a Kentucky radio station that Trump was “anxious to get an outcome and so am I. ... The key to this is making a law, not a point.”
McConnell said so-called "red flag" warning legislation, as well as expanded background checks, would be "front and center" on the Senate floor.
But red flag laws, conservatives say, might be unconstitutional, and states and local governments have increasingly sparred over the issue. More than a dozen states have enacted red flag laws.
In March, Colorado's attorney general testified that county sheriffs vowing not to enforce the state's anti-gun "red flag" bill should "resign."
Red flag laws generally require friends or family to establish by a "preponderance of the evidence" -- a relatively lax legal standard essentially meaning that something is "more likely than not" -- that a person "poses a significant risk to self or others by having a firearm in his or her custody or control or by possessing, purchasing or receiving a firearm."
An emergency hearing must then generally be held, and if an "extreme risk protection order" (ERPO) is issued by a judge, an individual will be barred from "possessing, controlling, purchasing or receiving a firearm" for a period of time.
“The urgency of this is not lost on any of us,” McConnell said. "What we can’t do is fail to pass something. What I want to see here is an outcome, not a bunch of partisan back and forths, shots across the bow.”
The Washington Post, citing unnamed sources, reported that LaPierre told Trump that endorsing tougher background checks -- which the president has reportedly done in private since the February 2018 massacre in Parkland, Fla., that left 17 dead, would not be popular with his voter base.
The NRA did not immediately respond to an email from Fox News seeking comment.
Fox News' Ronn Blitzer contributed to this report.