GOP Sen. Risch downplays filibuster, says gun bill debate a ‘good thing’

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“The filibuster is simply a tactic to stop the bill from passing,” he added. “If you’re successful with the filibuster it’s over, it’s done, and that would be my preference.”

In March, a group of Republican lawmakers, led by Sens. Rand PaulRand PaulHow low is the bar for presidential candidates, anyway? Lawmaker seeks to investigate Obama's foreign tax compliance law Funding bill rejected as shutdown nears MORE (Ky.), Mike LeeMike LeeICANN is already under foreign government influence: the proof is in the pudding Senators express 'grave concerns' about ObamaCare 'bailout' Funding bill rejected as shutdown nears MORE (Utah), Ted CruzTed CruzJudge rejects attempt to stop internet oversight transfer Tech groups file court brief opposing internet transition suit Cruz criticizes federal law enforcement on terrorism MORE (Texas) and Marco RubioMarco RubioRubio, Heck help out at car crash scene Florida paper endorses Clinton, writes separate piece on why not Trump GOP lawmakers slam secret agreement to help lift Iran bank sanctions MORE (Fla.), wrote to Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidThe missed opportunity of JASTA States urged to bolster election security How the White House got rolled on the Saudi-9/11 bill MORE (D-Nev.) pledging to “oppose the motion to proceed to any legislation that will serve as a vehicle for any additional gun restrictions.”

The group counts 13 Republican signers, including Risch. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnell9/11 bill is a global blunder that will weaken US efforts abroad States urged to bolster election security How the White House got rolled on the Saudi-9/11 bill MORE (Ky.) did not sign the letter but backed the effort, saying he would filibuster the bill because the background-check portion did not receive a single Republican vote during the Judiciary Committee markup. 

However, a number of senior Republicans this week said they would not support a filibuster, making it likely that Senate majority leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) can bring the measure to debate despite the opposition.

Still, Risch and other Republicans remain opposed to any expansion of the current background checks system. Risch on Wednesday argued it would pass the burden on to legal firearms owners, and said existing laws weren’t being enforced in the first place.

Republican Sen. Pat Toomey (Pa.) and Democrat Joe ManchinJoe ManchinElection-year politics: Senate Dems shun GOP vulnerables Mylan CEO should be ashamed of EpiPen prices Overnight Finance: Senate rejects funding bill as shutdown looms | Labor Dept. to probe Wells Fargo | Fed to ease stress test rules for small banks MORE (W.V.) will hold a press conference early Wednesday to discuss developments in their closely-watched negotiations on expanding background checks for gun purchases.

The joint press conference has raised hopes the two lawmakers are close to a deal which would be a breakthrough for efforts to pass a Senate gun control bill. A bipartisan background check measure could attract enough GOP support to reach the Senate’s 60-vote threshold.

Risch said he didn’t know the details of the potential bipartisan proposal, but said it likely would not have stopped the Newtown massacre or other mass shootings.

“I don’t know what the proposal is. I suspect it’s an expansion of the background checks system,” he said. “What we know for certain is that the atrocities that were committed at Virginia Tech by a defendant, a criminal, who actually passed a background check, and the atrocities that were committed at Connecticut were done with guns that were purchased by someone who went through a background check.

“I want to keep guns out of the hands of people that shouldn’t have them,” said Risch. “The background check, at least under the system we have today, is not a way of doing that.”