Last Wednesday, Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy led a fifteen hour filibuster in the wake of the massacre in Orlando. The result was that the Senate agreed to consider a number of gun safety measures this week.
Therefore, yesterday the body took four different votes concerning gun control.
Sen. Murphy’s amendment was very similar to the 2013 Toomey-Manchin bill and focused on requiring background checks for private sellers, especially for firearms bought over the internet or at gun shows. Because of a disagreement over the details, however, Toomey announced his opposition last week.
The vote on Sen. Murphy’s amendment failed 44-56. One Republican Senator, Mark Kirk of Illinois, supported it. Three Democratic Senators, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, and Jon Tester of Montana, opposed it.
Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley revived the Republican alternative legislation from 2013 as well.
The vote on Sen. Grassley’s amendment achieved a majority, 53-47, but failed to pass the sixty vote cloture threshold. Kirk again voted with the Dems against the bill as did Colorado’s Cory Gardner. One Democrat, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, joined the majority. Donnelly is another Dem up in 2018 whereas while Gardner isn’t up until 2020 yet he is still a Republican in a blue state.
There was also an effort to prohibit suspected terrorists from buying a gun.
California Senator Dianne Feinstein’s amendment on that subject went down 47-53. Kirk and Heitkamp each crossed party lines again as did New Hampshire Republican Kelly Ayotte. She is also a prime target for Democrats this November.
Finally, Texas Senator (and Senate Majority Whip) John Cornyn introduced his own alternative to Feinstein’s amendment which was rejected 53-47. Two Dems, Joe Donnelly and Joe Manchin, supported the Cornyn amendment. Meanwhile three Republicans, Susan Collins of Maine, Jeff Flake of Arizona and Kirk did not support it. Collins isn’t up for re-election until 2020 but comes from deep blue Maine. Flake is up in 2018 but is from red Arizona (although Democrats believe it is trending their way).
PA Senators Bob Casey and Pat Toomey both denounced the Senate’s actions for separate reasons.
“Tonight, the Senate defaulted on its basic obligation to keep America safe,” Sen. Casey stated. “Universal background checks and a ban of those on the terrorist watchlist from buying guns represent the bare minimum steps the Senate should take to address gun violence. Some in the U.S. Senate believe that there’s nothing our nation, the most powerful in the world, can do to confront gun violence, which killed 33,646 Americans in 2014, but enforce existing law. I refuse to accept that. That’s not who we are. We’re a nation of people who have always sought solutions to difficult challenges; the scourge of gun violence should be no different. I’ll continue to push for a ban on military-style weapons, limits on magazine and clip sizes, a ban on those on the terror watchlist and those who have committed violent misdemeanor hate crimes from purchasing firearms and universal background checks. The victims of gun violence, from large-scale tragedies like Newtown and Orlando and also from the daily crisis of shootings in cities in Pennsylvania and around the country, deserve better. Every day, an average of 91 Americans are killed with guns and robbed of their futures. Members of the Senate should know that their condolences are not enough, only action will meet the test of justice.”
Sen. Toomey’s response is included in full below:
“Today’s votes were nothing more than a partisan charade. They are symbolic of why most Americans have so little faith in Washington, and why Washington too often does so little to address the serious problems our country faces.
“Today’s votes were designed to fail. They were designed to maximize partisan differences, and minimize our ability to find the common ground needed to actually make progress and save lives. That is an outrage.
“On background checks, had there been a real search for common ground, there would have been a vote on the bipartisan legislation that Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and I authored in 2013 and that I still support. In fact, Sen. Manchin and I filed our proposal again as an amendment last week in the hopes of getting it acted upon today. Instead, the Senate considered a different extreme background check amendment that had even less bipartisan support.
“On the issue of keeping guns away from terrorists, rather than considering compromise legislation that I have introduced or that is being worked on by Sen. Collins (R-Maine) and others, we once again voted on previously defeated proposals that had no meaningful level of bipartisan support.
“There should be a sensible middle ground on issues such as expanded background checks and keeping guns out of the hands of terrorists, but today’s votes mark another missed opportunity to find it. When I first dove into the gun safety effort after the Sandy Hook shootings, I worked across party lines, since that was the only way to get something done. Today, bipartisanship is needed more than ever on this issue that cries out for action. Today, we did not get that. But I will not give up, and in the days and weeks to come, I remain determined to achieve real results for the American people, whose safety depends on it.”