After Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) staged a 14-hour filibuster to champion stricter gun control, Senate Republicans agreed to discuss two measures offered by Democrats that targeted gun owners.
On Thursday morning, The Washington Post reported, Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) said that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) had agreed to allow the Senate to vote on two proposals offered by Democrats. McConnell would only say that nothing was finalized, but the Senate would attempt to schedule votes on proposals “from both sides.”
One proposal, from Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) would give the attorney general the power to name someone a terrorist and deny them firearms and explosives; the second proposal, from Murphy, Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) would force buyers of firearms at gun shows and online to undergo background checks.
Reid lauded Murphy’s efforts, calling him “inspiring” while taunting, “I hope he got the attention of the Senate Republicans.” McConnell termed the filibuster “a campaign talk-a-thon out here on the Senate floor which also prevented us from moving forward.” GOP leaders dismissed the idea that Murphy’s show had triggered any new actions, asserting that they had acknowledged on Tuesday amendments would be voted on.
McConnell intimated that a proposal from Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) giving the attorney general 72 hours to prove there was probable cause to deny firearms to terrorists would be considered. He added, “Of course no one wants terrorists to be able to buy a gun. If Democrats are actually serious about getting a solution on that issue, not just making a political talking point, they’ll join with us to support Sen. Cornyn’s” bill.
Cornyn and Feinstein’s proposals were both rejected by the Senate last December; Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois was the only Republican to vote for Feinstein’s bill. The DOJ endorsed Feinstein’s proposal on Thursday. Democrats maintain that the burden of proof under the Cornyn legislation is too severe.
Some Republicans joined the Democrats in dismissing Cornyn’s proposal; Schumer called Cornyn’s proposal “outlandish,” Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), reversed her position supporting the measure last year, now saying it “doesn’t do the job.” Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) echoed “the Cornyn approach doesn’t give the AG the opportunity that an AG needs to make a case against someone who is actually a terrorist.”
But Toomey communicated with former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg’s group Everytown for Gun Safety, to see if they could agree on a pathway toward gun control, asserting, “This is not rocket science to figure this out,” and adding that he had spoken with “several” senators about reaching an agreement.
On Wednesday, Feinstein and Cornyn attempted a negotiation, but it failed. Feinstein said, “I don’t think it’s going to work out.” Feinstein said she had wanted to deny guns to anyone on the terrorist watch list in the past five years, but Toomey told her “no Republican would support it — which indicated to me that the [National Rifle Association] has spoken.”
“I hope he got the attention of the Senate Republicans.”
Harry Reid, on Chris Murphy's filibuster on gun control
Instead, Toomey suggested a secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court be created that would check an annual list from the attorney general of potential terrorists. Schumer called Toomey’s idea and Cornyn’s “not at all acceptable.”
Everytown spokeswoman Erika Soto Lamb was pleased with the speed with which the Senate was considering proposals, saying, “After Sandy Hook it took four months for the U.S. Senate to vote. After Orlando it took four days. Make no mistake that this is another sign of the sea change in gun politics.”