WASHINGTON (AP) _ With Congress nearing adjournment, Democrats say they're getting signals from Republican leaders that no vote will be held this year on rules to restrict gun sales.
But Rep. Henry Hyde, R-Ill., chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and the key lawmaker involved, said he thinks compromise that would allow a vote remains possible.
Lawmakers have not met formally since the summer to negotiate gun restrictions included in a Senate bill that toughens penalties for penalties for juvenile offenders. A similar House measure contains no restrictions.
Before a bill can be passed, a committee from both houses must meet in "conference" to reconcile differences between the bills.
Democrats have accused House Republicans of delaying consideration of the legislation, which in the Senate version would make it harder for people with criminal records to buy guns at gun shows and for juveniles to get their hands on firearms.
"As we sit here today, we must acknowledge that Congress will likely recess next week without taking final action on the juvenile justice bill, a bill which contains a modest and important provision to help keep guns out of the hands of kids and criminals," Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., told the Senate Judiciary Committee.
"It's my understanding that Hyde in the House announced today that the conference is over. There will be no juvenile justice bill," Durbin said.
"We're not going to legislate on the gun-show loophole. We're not even going to do a juvenile justice bill, because people don't want to talk about it," Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said.
But Hyde said he made no such announcement. Informal negotiations between Republicans and Democrats continue, he said.
"I remain optimistic that some compromise is possible if people of good will want it to happen," Hyde said. "Through negotiations and discussion with members on all sides of this contentious issue, Senator Hatch and I have pulled together a proposal that closes the gun-show loophole and offers a number of other modest yet effective gun safety provisions. The Democratic leadership continues to resist this proposal."
An aide to Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, called Democratic complaints "nonsense."
"Juvenile justice is alive and well," aide Paul Smith said. "Hatch met as late as last week with some of the leaders, and it is not dead."