Dems vote against sportsmen's bill over gun control objections

The Senate voted to move forward on Monday with legislation aimed at preserving federal lands for hunting and fishing, despite objections from Democrats who wanted the measure to include gun control language.

Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said they voted against cloture on the motion to proceed because they don’t think the Senate should be considering a gun bill that doesn’t include reforms such as background checks on all gun sales.

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“I cannot vote for a measure that makes owning, possessing or using guns more readily or easily usable when we have failed to act and we have failed to act on common sense, sensible measures that would stop gun violence,” Blumenthal said ahead of the vote. “First things first, let’s reduce gun violence.”

Democratic Sens. Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), Barbara Boxer (Calif.), Bob Menendez (N.J.), Cory Booker (N.J.), Jack Reed (R.I.), Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), Ed Markey (Mass.), Mazie Hirono (Hawaii) and Ben Cardin (Md.) joined Blumenthal and Murphy in opposing the bill. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) also voted no.

The 82-12 vote opened debate on a bipartisan sportsmen’s bill introduced by Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.).

The legislation is meant to help several red-state Democrats in tough reelection races this year. Co-sponsors include four other Dems who, like Hagan, are facing difficult reelection races this year: Sens. Mark Pryor (Ark.), Mark Begich (Alaska), Mary Landrieu (La.) and Mark Udall (Colo.). 

“In North Carolina, hunting, fishing and shooting are a way of life,” Hagan said. “Many of these traditions have been handed down through my own family, and I’m proud that our bill protects these activities for future generations while ensuring that outdoor recreation can continue to support jobs and local economies across the country.”

The sportsmen's bill would also reauthorize wetland and fishing conservation programs and would allow online sales of duck stamps. The Senate is expected to continue debating the legislation this week.

Democrats have used similar legislation before to try to help incumbents fighting for reelection.

Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) introduced a similar bill while he was up for reelection in 2012, but Republicans filibustered it.

The Senate also voted 93-0 on Monday to confirm Cheryl Krause to serve as a judge for the 3rd Circuit Court.