Obama phones Newtown families following Senate cloture vote

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"President Obama spoke by phone with family members and victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy who are here in Washington, D.C., to ask Congress to pass commonsense measures to reduce gun violence," White House press secretary Jay Carney said Thursday. "The president congratulated the families on this important step forward, nothing that the bipartisan progress would not have been possible without their efforts. He reiterated that much work remains, and pledged to continue fighting for the votes they deserve."

Many of the victims' families were in Washington throughout the week to lobby members of Congress to allow the bill to proceed. The president flew 11 family members from Connecticut on Air Force One after his speech on Monday, and on Tuesday they had breakfast with Vice President Biden. Since then, they have been lobbying members of Congress in both private meetings and public statements.

Just prior to the vote, relatives of the Newtown victims issued a joint release saying those who threatened to filibuster the bill should be "ashamed." Some of the victims' families watched the vote from the Senate gallery.

"The senators who have vowed to filibuster this bill should be ashamed of their attempt to silence efforts to prevent the next American tragedy," the group said in a statement. "Their staunch opposition to sensible gun reform is an affront to the 26 innocent children and educators who were murdered in Newtown. No one should have to experience the pain we have endured — commonsense gun laws will help spare others from the grief we live with every day."

Sixteen Republicans voted in favor of the cloture motion, while two Democrats — Sens. Mark Begich (Alaska) and Mark Pryor (Ark.) — voted against. Both face reelection in states that President Obama lost last year.

At the White House, Carney called the Senate vote a "welcome development."

"This was simply, while very important, a first stage in an effort to get sensible, commonsense legislation that would reduce gun violence in America while protecting Americans' Second Amendment rights signed into law," Carney said.