WASHINGTON – United States President Donald Trump met with Democratic Senator Joe Manchin at the White House on Thursday to discuss a policy response to mass shootings that have killed dozens of people over the past several weeks, three people familiar with the matter said.
The 30-minute private meeting, which included several White House staffers, touched on a range of possible gun-related policy issues including background checks, the people said.
Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat who met with Trump, and Senator Pat Toomey (R., Pa.) have long urged legislation expanding background checks for gun sales. Their bill failed to pass the Senate in 2013.
“The president expressed interest in getting a result, so conversations will continue to see if there’s a way to create a reasonable background check proposal, along with other ideas,” a White House official said.
But another person familiar with the meeting said the president didn’t give Manchin a clear signal, illustrating the widespread uncertainty on Capitol Hill about what Trump might support.
Manchin was already at the White House on Thursday for a Medal of Freedom ceremony honoring Los Angeles Lakers and West Virginia basketball great Jerry West. The gun-policy meeting occurred after the event.
Lawmakers, and even some White House officials, remain skeptical that significant gun-control legislation can win congressional approval with the 2020 election looming.
Some of the president’s advisers have cautioned him against taking aggressive steps in response to the shootings, arguing that such moves could reduce support among conservatives.
The president and his aides have discussed measures to improve background checks, empower law-enforcement officials to remove guns temporarily from people deemed dangerous, boost mental-health services and subject mass shooters to the death penalty, among other things.
Trump hasn’t yet endorsed specific legislation, though White House officials have said they hope to move a package through Congress.
Trump’s position on guns is important because where he stands will determine whether Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) schedules a vote on gun legislation.
Earlier this week, McConnell told the Hugh Hewitt radio show that he expected to hear from the Trump administration next week about what sort of gun legislation it was prepared to support, if any.
“If the president took a position on a bill so that we knew we would actually be making a law and not just having serial votes, I’d be happy to put it on the floor,” McConnell said.
Democrats have mounted a campaign to pressure McConnell to schedule a vote.
House Democrats plan a series of votes in the Judiciary Committee next week, and over the recess, Senator Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent who is running for president as a Democrat, went to McConnell’s hometown of Louisville, Ky., to call for a vote.