MADISON — Sen. Ron Johnson was one of two senators to not vote on a bipartisan gun-control proposal on Thursday, in the wake of a deadly mass shooting in San Bernardino, California.
The measure, originally introduced in 2013 by Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, and Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pennsylvania, was offered Thursday as an amendment to an Obamacare repeal package. It failed on a 48-50 vote.
Four Republicans supported the proposal and one Democrat voted against it. Johnson, R-Wisconsin, was one of two senators who did not cast a vote. A spokeswoman for the senator said his absence was not intentional.
The proposal would require background checks for guns purchased online and at gun shows, but would not outlaw the transfer of guns between friends or family members.
Johnson did vote on every other amendment proposed on Thursday, including the two offered immediately before and after the Manchin-Toomey vote. He voted for an amendment offered by Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, as an alternative to the Manchin-Toomey proposal.
Grassley’s amendment, which was also rejected, would criminalize straw purchases and offer incentives for states to provide mental health records to a national database. It would also reduce funding for so-called “sanctuary cities.”
His critics were quick to jump on his absence. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee called him a “glaring no-show.”
“To quote his 2010 commercial, ‘There are 100 members of the U.S. Senate,’ but only Ron Johnson hid in the Senate cloakroom to avoid a tough vote on guns,” said One Wisconsin Now executive director Scot Ross. “Tea Party Senator Ron Johnson opposes closing the loophole in our law that lets guns be secretly sold by private sellers with no background checks and no questions asked. But it’s election time and politician Ron Johnson is trying to save his own hide by cutting and running on a tough, high-profile vote.”
But a spokeswoman for the senator said his opposition to the amendment is no secret.
“Sen. Johnson left the floor for a short time and did not get back in time for this vote. His opposition to this amendment is well documented. His vote was not needed to defeat the amendment,” said spokeswoman Paige Alwood in an email. “Sen. Johnson was happy to vote for superior legislation proposed by Sen. Grassley that addresses issues of mental health, sanctuary cities, straw purchasing and prosecutorial resources — provisions that have drawn bipartisan support in the past.”
Johnson voted against the proposal, introduced as individual legislation, in April 2013.