Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
February 8, 2016

Gun Filibuster Thwarted, Debate Just Beginning

“The hard work starts now,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid just declared.

The most important vote in Congress so far this year for President Barack Obama’s legislative agenda was relatively anticlimactic. The Senate voted just a few minutes ago, 68-31, to overcome the filibuster launched to prevent any discussion at all of gun control legislation, well more than the 60 votes required because more than one-third of Republicans broke with the party mainstream and supported at least having a full debate.

The 16 Republicans who voted to break the filibuster were Sens. Lamar Alexander, Kelly Ayotte, Richard M. Burr, Saxby Chambliss, Tom Coburn, Susan Collins, Bob Corker, Jeff Flake, Lindsey Graham, Dean Heller, John Hoeven, Johnny Isakson, Mark S.  Kirk, John McCain, Patrick J. Toomey and Roger Wicker.

Sens. Mark Begich and Mark Pryor, both of whom are seeking re-election next year in Republican-leaning states, were the two Democrats who wanted to kill the bill in the cradle.

Even before the roll was called, proponents of the most ambitious gun control package possible announced they had an agreement for an even more pivotal vote on Tuesday — on language embodying the bipartisan agreement, unveiled Wednesday, for expanding the reach of required background checks to cover customers at gun shows and online transactions, but not noncommercial sales. Background checks now are required only before sales at the country’s 55,000 licensed gun dealers.

The delay is because, knowing they were going to lose Thursday morning, the conservative orchestrators of the filibuster served notice they would insist on their right to delay the debate another 30 hours before any consideration of amendments could begin.

The outcome of the background check vote is still too far in the future to predict, and a huge wave of lobbying on both sides is sure to wash over middle-of-the road senators when they’re back in their home states this weekend.  But the momentum seems to be with the authors of the compromise — Toomey and Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin III — a sense undoubtedly reinforced by the solid bloc of GOP support for taking up the bill in the first place.

Expanding background checks, it has become clear, has become the aspirational high-water mark of the Obama administration and its allies on gun violence. The lobbying by the National Rifle Association has all but officially sealed the fate of the two other central proposals in the president’s package: bans on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition clips.

Both will get roll calls, but almost no one thinks they’ll come close to winning inclusion in the final Senate measure.

  • Chris G

    I don’t understand the statement that they want to expand background checks to cover online transactions. It’s not legal for a private individual without a FFL to ship a firearm person-to-person. You can only ship to a gunsmith or manufacturer. If I purchase a firearm from a dealer or private individual online, that firearm still must be shipped to a federally licensed dealer (FFL) on my end. When I go to pick it up, I must fill out all the paperwork and go through a NICS check before the FFL will relinquish it to me, just as if I’d purchased in person at the local dealer.

  • A free person today

    I don’t understand this issue every senator and congressman takes an oath to uphold the Constitution. The Supreme Court should just stand up and say STOP. The second amendment stands as it is. Why do we need to pay a lawyer to bring this to trial? I and a lot of other people are tired of politicians making laws to crush the Constitution, and middle class of this country.

  • Jon Piper

    This lie about showing up at gunshows and buying firearms over the computet without a background check just shows once again that the Democrats have to lie to get their agenda passed. You must go through a full background check at a gunshow to buy a firearm from a dealer or you are commiting a federal crime. You don’t need to do this if you are a private citizen selling to another citizen…ohh hmm banning private sales of firearms. Now I see..

  • Mark Benford

    @Chris G – that’s true for interstate sales that involve shipping the firearm. In-state sales that don’t require shipping the firearm do not have to involve a licensed dealer.
    @Jon Piper – the key word is dealer. Dealers must do background checks, even at a gun show. Private citizen selling a gun to a private citizen that they don’t know at a gun show is the “loophole” that people talk about. If the seller don’t know the person they’re selling to, a background check should be done, whether the seller is a “private citizen” or a dealer.
    “Noncommercial” transfers should never involve unknown parties, so that shouldn’t be an issue.

    • Chris G

      In state or out-of-state, if there is shipping involved, it must go through an FFL and a NICS check happens. If there’s no shipping involved, then it’s a face-to-face transaction that used the internet as a sales ad, just like if an ad was placed in the paper. I understand that it’s the FTF transactions they want to bring into the NICS system, but they shouldn’t make it out like I can pick a gun on a website, enter my CC information, and have a gun shipped directly to me like it was a book from Amazon. It doesn’t happen that way, but it’s being portrayed that way.
      My main concern is how they plan to enforce mandatory private sale checks without some sort of registry. Currently, NICS checks aren’t held. Once the person is cleared, there’s no permanent record that you were checked. How do you enforce checks without keeping a record that serves as proof you went through it? Do they start keeping permanent records of the checks to know that Joe Smith had a NICS check run on 04/11/2013 at The Gun Range in Anytown, USA?
      Don’t get me wrong, I prefer to do FTF sales with someone holding a current CHL. That way I know they have gone through a thorough check by the State (usually more stringently than the NICS) and I feel more comfortable that the buyer is not a felon. And I’d like the ability to go to a gun shop and have a check run on a buyer (is this already possible? I don’t know). But I see the complications in mandating it and being able to enforce compliance without registration.

  • rjriley5000

    In recent years we have seen our civil liberties eroded, an average of 40% decline in everyones net worth with no significant prosecution of the thieves and destruction of the American dream.

    I am fed up with politicians. Most people share the same view. It is time to start tossing out most incumbents, especially the scum at the top. Both party’s leadership is corrupt.

    We need to start electing independents, sidelining political hacks of both parties.

  • Rich Wasman

    Washington Idiots.
    Criminals do not buy legal guns.
    When will Washington wake up? Never.
    Oust them all and let the people of this country start over.
    Uphold the Constitution.
    If you elected officials need a copy email me and I will send you a copy.
    You where elected to uphold the Constitution not to bypass it.

  • Sarah Conner

    Aaaaaaand it’s over.

Sign In

Forgot password?



Receive daily coverage of the people, politics and personality of Capitol Hill.

Subscription | Free Trial

Logging you in. One moment, please...