Coburn threatens defense filibuster until amendment gets a vote

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) threatened to filibuster the remainder of amendments to the defense bill until he gets a vote on his own amendment.

“I will object to any further unanimous consent agreements to protect the rights of those who protect this country,” Coburn said late Thursday night on the Senate floor.

Coburn’s amendment, 3254, would prohibit a mental illness diagnosis from stopping veterans from owning guns, unless they are deemed mentally ill by a judge.

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“All we’re asking for the veterans of this country, that if their rights are taken away, that it be by a judge and adjudicated rather than a social worker at the [Department of Veterans Affairs],” Coburn said. “They ought to have it adjudicated, rather than mandated by someone unqualified to make that decision.”

Coburn said he’s concerned that a VA social worker could deem a veteran mentally ill and that veteran would no longer be able to possess a gun. His amendment would ensure this doesn’t happen.

Coburn’s amendment was going to be brought up for consideration, but Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) objected.

“If you are adjudicated for being mentally infirmed, you are barred from buying a gun,” Schumer said. “If you are mentally ill, even if you’re a veteran … you should not have a gun.”

Schumer said that unlike, Coburn, he has objected to legislation only a handful of times.

"The number of times that I’ve objected are on a single hand over here," Schumer said. "I suspect his amendment was even on that list because [Coburn] said he’d do exactly what he’s doing now … that he’d object to everything else."

Coburn said his amendment is only protecting the Second Amendment rights of veterans.

“There is no one we should want to protect the rights of more than the person who’s protected this country,” Coburn said.

Coburn did allow Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), who is managing the amendment process, to bring up four more amendments before he started his filibuster. 

The Senate will resume work on the National Defense Authorization Act, S. 3254, Friday morning at 9:30 a.m., where Coburn will presumably start filibustering amendment votes. The defense bill funds U.S. military operation. 

Levin had said he hoped to conclude work on the defense bill by the end of the week, but with Coburn’s filibuster it is now unsure.

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