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House Could Still Vote on Extending Assault Weapons Ban, Speaker Says

May 16, 2003|From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert opened the door Thursday to a vote on extending an assault weapons ban that expires next year, and the leader of House Democrats prodded President Bush to urge the Republican leadership to bring the measure to the floor.

"And I hope that he will work for its passage as well," said Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco).

Hastert, an Illinois Republican, said he hadn't decided whether the GOP-controlled House would vote on renewing the ban, which was approved in 1994 on 19 military-style automatic weapons.

"I need to have some discussions with the president and [Republican] leadership before I make that decision," he said.

Hastert made his comments after a statement this week by Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) that the votes "are not there" in the House to extend the ban.

DeLay's spokesman, Stuart Roy, later said Republicans have no intention of calling the bill up for a vote.

White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer has said the president supports an extension of the ban -- a position Bush took during his campaign for the White House.

However, Fleischer has sidestepped questions on whether the president would put his prestige behind a campaign to renew the legislation.

The ban, which is opposed by the politically potent National Rifle Assn., expires in September 2004, two months before the presidential and congressional elections.

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