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Exclusive: McConnell says he has directed Cornyn to engage with Democrats on a ‘bipartisan solution’ on gun violence

May 26, 2022, 12:06 PM | Updated: Jun 8, 2022, 3:14 pm

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) speaks at a news conference following the weekly Sena...

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) speaks at a news conference following the weekly Senate Republican policy luncheon at the U.S. Capitol Building on April 05, 2022 in Washington, DC. During the news conference, Sen. McConnell spoke on topics including the negotiations for further Covid-19 relief legislation and the rise in border crossings at the United States Southern Border. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

(Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

(CNN) — Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told CNN on Thursday he met earlier in the day with Texas Sen. John Cornyn and encouraged the senior Republican senator to begin discussions with Democrats, including Sens. Chris Murphy of Connecticut and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, to see if they can find a middle ground on legislation to respond to the tragic Texas elementary school shooting.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are facing enormous pressure to take action in the wake of the horrific shooting, but members on both sides acknowledge the uphill battle to find common ground given the highly polarized political climate around gun legislation and widespread GOP opposition to stricter gun control.

It is significant, though, that McConnell has decided to weigh in and is giving a greenlight to a bipartisan effort on a potential legislative response to the shooting. But it still remains to be seen what, if anything, talks will amount to given that countless mass shootings in recent years have failed to break the partisan stalemate over the issue of gun policy in Congress.

McConnell would not say specifically what the contours of that legislation should be, instead signaling he wants Cornyn to be the one to negotiate.

“I met with Senator Cornyn this morning. As you know he went home yesterday to see the family members and begin the fact finding of this awful massacre and I have encouraged him to talk with Sen. Murphy and Sen. Sinema and others who are interested in trying to get an outcome that is directly related to the problem. I am hopeful that we could come up with a bipartisan solution,” McConnell told CNN.

Legislation to respond to mass shootings and counter gun violence has long been one of the most divisive and intractable policy issues facing lawmakers.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has indicated that Democrats are willing to give some time and space for efforts to reach some kind of bipartisan compromise on gun legislation, though he has noted the odds are long. He has also made clear that these efforts will not be given an unlimited amount of time to play out.

“We have to try everything. We must not leave a single stone unturned,” Schumer said earlier on Thursday.

He added, however, “this is not an invite to negotiate indefinitely. Make no mistake about it, if these negotiations do not bear fruit in a short period of time, the Senate will vote on gun safety legislation.”

Senate Democrats took steps on Tuesday night to place two House-passed background checks bills onto the legislative calendar so they can be voted on. It’s unclear, however, when the Senate might vote on the measures and they would not be expected to overcome a GOP filibuster.

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Exclusive: McConnell says he has directed Cornyn to engage with Democrats on a ‘bipartisan solution’ on gun violence