The Senate will hold the first key procedural vote on a bill to curb gun violence Thursday as more than a half-dozen Republicans announced that they will join with Democrats to stop any attempt to block popular legislation drafted in response to a deadly shooting at a Connecticut elementary school…
Senate procedural rules require Reid to secure at least 60 votes to move ahead with the legislation. Republican support to proceed doesn’t guarantee final passage of the bill — just that the Senate can actually begin formal debate. Getting at least 51 senators to support a final bill will prove difficult, as the politics of the issue are especially tricky for several Senate Democrats seeking reelection in 2014 in rural and Midwestern states…
Thus far, at least eight GOP senators — John McCain (Ariz.), Lindsey Graham (S.C.), Mark Kirk (Ill.), Johnny Isakson (Ga.), Tom Coburn (Okla.), Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), Kelly Ayotte (N.H.) and Susan Collins (Maine) — have said they will not join in a filibuster being planned by a handful of the party’s more conservative senators…
In a sign of how important Republican support would be for ensuring final passage of any legislation, at least two Democrats facing difficult reelection fights in 2014 — Max Baucus (Mont.) and Mark Pryor (Ark.) — said they might break with their party in opposition to the bill.
Several conservative Democrats and centrist Republicans have said they wouldn’t support Mr. Schumer’s proposal to broadly expand background checks, but are open to considering a bipartisan compromise if one is reached.
“If there’s a right way to limit access to guns for those who are violent or those who have mental health issues, then I think we should proceed,” and bring the bill to the floor, Mr. Heller said in a brief interview.
Sen. Joe Manchin says he is on the verge a bipartisan deal to expand background checks for guns sales, an agreement that could lead to the biggest change in U.S. gun laws in nearly 20 years.
Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat, has been meeting with conservative GOP Sen. Pat Toomey (Pa.) over the last week to try to forge a deal on background checks…
“We’re getting there. We’re really getting there,” Manchin said. “Tomorrow we hope to be at the point where we can finalize everything.”…
Toomey is Democrats’ last hope of reaching a compromise gun deal including background checks with record-keeping of most gun sales, a provision that gun groups and many conservatives fiercely oppose but has broad public support. Democrats hoped that if they lured one conservative ally, than others — along with gun-friendly Democrats — would follow.
President Obama has been calling Republican and Democratic senators on Tuesday to discuss the gun-control vote, a White House official said.
Obama is expected to reach out to between half a dozen to a dozen senators in all, the official said…
As part of the lobbying effort, Obama is telling senators that gun-control legislation “deserves a vote,” the official said. The president is expected to reiterate his message in recent days that Congress has an obligation to the victims of the school shooting in Newtown, Conn., to consider new restrictions on guns.
Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, White House press secretary Jay Carney said it would be “appalling” if some Republicans filibustered legislation supported by a majority of Americans.
The effort to filibuster consideration of the legislation has been led by the conservative flank of the Senate Republican conference, spearheaded by Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Ted Cruz of Texas.
The group appeared to be recalibrating its message on Tuesday. Lee said the effort wasn’t about blocking the bill, but simply slowing down the process.
“By objecting to the motion to proceed, we guarantee that the Senate and the American people have at least three additional days to assess and evaluate exactly how this particular bill will affect the rights of law-abiding citizens and whether it will have any significant impact on crime,” Lee said in a statement. “The president again is trying to rush legislation through Congress because he knows that as Americans begin to find out what is in the bill, they will oppose it.”
We’ve been trapped in this Wonderland of spin before. In February, opponents of defense nominee Chuck Hagel promised to filibuster his nomination. Ted Cruz wrote a letter; they signed onto it. They had the votes to delay Hagel with one filibuster, but over the next congressional recess, as damaging Hagel intel failed to emerge, the 41-senator squad fell apart. The hardcore Hagel foes revealed how weak they were with another letter, asking the president to withdraw the nomination. That only got 14 signatures. You either have 41, or you don’t have a filibuster. The White House won.
So the Senate lurched on to the gun bill—and conservatives tried the exact same strategy. The White House’s gun bill push has never been about a must-have provision. Like the 2009 push for health care reform or the 2010 Dodd–Frank offensive, it’s been about getting something done and letting the Senate Democrats figure out the “something.” If the final gun bill looks like the compromise being put together by Pennsylvania Republican Sen. Pat Toomey and West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, well, sure, fine. Obama’s new tribute to gun violence victims isn’t “they deserve an assault weapons ban.” It’s “they deserve a vote.” How better to prove that, and to get the discussion away from the details that were weakening the background checks push, then another fight with the Senate conservatives?
“It’s a fascinating battle in which both sides have different goals,” said former Democratic presidential candidate and Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, who boasts of several NRA endorsements during his political career. “The NRA is clearly succeeding in cranking up their base and expanding it. Their game is as much about keeping themselves in business as it is about public policy.”
As for Obama, “He is winning the hearts and minds of the American people and hopefully moving real legislation,” Dean said. “The president comes out as a winner either way because if the Republicans kill it, he can use it as an issue in 2014 to help Democrats win the House.”
“What an embarrassing thing to say,” Biden said of the stated intent of 13 senators to prevent a vote on new background check legislation.
“Imagine what they’re saying, gentlemen and ladies, in other capitals around the world today.”…
“The climax of this tragedy could be that we’re not even going to get a vote?” he added. “Imagine how this makes us look.”