GOP Filibuster Of Senate Gun Bill Fails First Test
The Senate today voted to proceed with debate on gun control, successfully dodging a filibuster attempt by Senator Rand Paul and others:
WASHINGTON — The Senate on Thursday cleared the way for debate on the first piece of major gun-control legislation to be considered in that chamber in two decades.
With families of victims of the Newtown, Conn., massacre watching silently from the chamber, the Senate thwarted a threatened filibuster with a vote of 68 to 31 and will proceed next week to debate a package of legislation that would expand background checks for gun buyers and increase the penalties for criminal sales, in addition to a variety of other amendments. Those include the renewal of the assault weapons ban that expired in 2004.
Twenty-nine Republicans voted against the measure, as did two Democrats. Sixteen Republicans joined 52 Democrats in voting to cut off the debate and proceed to consideration of the legislation.
“Americans across this great country are looking to us for solutions and for action,” said Senator Patrick Leahy, Democrat of Vermont and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, “not for filibustering or sloganeering.”
Senator Mike Lee, Republican of Utah, served as the voice of the opposition, reading letters from gun owners who fear infringement, like a pair of first-time-gun-owning senior citizens. “Protecting our rights, the few the government has left us, is of utmost importance to us,” Mr. Lee said.
The vote, while a short-term victory for gun-control advocates, in no way presages passage of new gun laws. The impending bill will again need 60 votes to end the debate after consideration of contentious amendments offered by both supporters and opponents of new laws.
Should it climb that mountain, 51 votes would be needed to get to final passage, and many Democrats from conservative states who face re-election campaigns next year have indicated that they do not intend to vote for the bill.
The bill that the Senate ultimately votes on, assuming they get past the second cloture vote, is likely to consist of the Manchin/Toomey background checks proposal, an anti-trafficking proposal cobbled together by Senators Leahy and Collins (and endorsed by the NRA), plus one or two other minor pieces. It now seems unlikely that the proposal to limit magazine sizes will make it through the process and, of course, the “assault weapons” ban isn’t even in bill. Despite that, the chances of this passing the Senate remain unclear. In either case, though, the final vote isn’t likely to take place until the end of this month or the sometime in early May, largely because of an upcoming recess and the fact that the amendment process will take some time.