Sen. McCain: I ‘don’t understand’ GOP threats to filibuster Senate gun bill

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) on Sunday expressed opposition to possible GOP efforts to filibuster a Senate gun-control measure, saying he did not “understand” the move to block debate.

“I don’t understand it,” said McCain on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “The purpose of the United States Senate is to debate and to vote and to let the people know where we stand.”

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“What are we afraid of? Why would we not want… if this issue is as important as all of us think it is, why not take  it to one of the world’s greatest deliberative bodies – that’s one of the greatest exaggerations in history by the way – but you know why not take it up, an amendment and debate. The American people will profit from it,” said the Arizona senator.

“I don’t understand why United States senators want to block debate when the leaders said we could have amendments,” McCain added.

A number of GOP lawmakers, including Sens. Rand Paul (Ky.), Mike Lee (Utah), Marco Rubio (Fla.), and Ted Cruz (Texas) wrote to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) vowing that they would “oppose the motion to proceed to any legislation that will serve as a vehicle for any additional gun restrictions.” 

Reid is planning to bring to the Senate floor this month legislation that would expand background checks, toughen penalties on straw purchasers of firearms and provide funding for school safety. But the background checks provisions have attracted opposition from GOP lawmakers after efforts to forge a bipartisan compromise faltered. 

The Senate vote comes as the White House is intensifying effort to pressure Congress to enact gun control, with Obama holding events with families of victims of gun violence and taking his message on the road to states which have experienced mass shootings.

Obama press secretary Jay Carney on Wednesday said it would be “shameful” for Republicans to filibuster a gun-control bill.

The Senate measure, though, is unlikely to attract support in the GOP House and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) is also readying his own gun-control bill as an alternative to the Democratic proposal. 

Appearing with McCain, Sen. Charles Schumer expressed optimism that if the bill proceeded to the floor, a measure on background checks could pass.

“If we go to the floor, I’m still hopeful that what I call the ‘sweet spot’ background checks can succeed. We are working hard there. Sen. [Joe] Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Sen. [Mark] Kirk [R-Ill.] have a few ideas that could modify the proposal.”

McCain said he would welcome a debate on background checks on the Senate floor.

“Everybody wants the same goal to keep the guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally disabled. Background checks are being conducted. Are they sufficient, are there ways to improve those? Then I think that’s something that the American people and certainly Congress could be helped by if we have a vigorous debate and discussion,” said McCain.