Mental health bill faces steep battle in Senate

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Discord over the politics of guns is slowing momentum of the passage of a major mental health reform bill in the Senate, according to The Hill.

The Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act, a bill that would significantly reform mental healthcare in the U.S., was passed by the House of Representatives July 6 in a vote of 422-2.  

Senators in both parties say they want to find a way to address mental health, but their hopes are dependent on bipartisan agreement on how guns fit into the bill.

For instance, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), has been seeking to add gun-related language to the bill — language that is already included in his own broader mental health bill — that would require a full judicial hearing before banning someone from purchasing a gun because of mental illness, according to the report. Democrats contend the language would make it easier for mentally ill people to buy guns.

Although a Senate GOP aide said there has been some bipartisan progress on reaching an agreement on the gun language, Democrats say there has been no real progress and Sen. Cornyn is still recommending proposals they object to.

Many worry the divisive issue of gun control will sink the legislation altogether.

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, said, "Hopefully we can keep gun amendments off of it. If it turns into a gun bill it won't go anywhere," according to the report.

Timing also poses another obstacle to the mental health reform bill. The Senate will be preoccupied with the election and the imperative to pass the government budget when it returns from recess in September.

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