Senate moves forward on gun control

The Senate voted to move forward on gun control Thursday, clearing the first of what is expected to be many 60-vote hurdles for the legislation.

In a 68-31 vote, the Senate approved a procedural motion that will allow debate on the Democratic measure to begin. Sixty votes were required for approval.

Sixteen Republicans voted in favor of the motion, while two Democrats — both from states President Obama lost in the 2012 election — voted against it. The two Democrats were Sens. Mark BegichMark Peter BegichPerez creates advisory team for DNC transition The future of the Arctic 2016’s battle for the Senate: A shifting map MORE (Alaska) and Mark PryorMark PryorMedicaid rollback looms for GOP senators in 2020 Cotton pitches anti-Democrat message to SC delegation Ex-Sen. Kay Hagan joins lobby firm MORE (Ark.), both of whom face reelection next year.

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The 16 Republicans who voted to proceed were Sens. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderOvernight Finance: Trump says shutdown 'could happen' | Ryan, conservatives inch closer to spending deal | Senate approves motion to go to tax conference | Ryan promises 'entitlement reform' in 2018 Senate approves motion to go to tax conference House conservatives, Ryan inch closer toward spending deal MORE (Tenn.), Kelly AyotteKelly Ann AyotteExplaining Democratic victories: It’s gun violence, stupid Trump voter fraud panel member fights back against critics Dems plan to make gun control an issue in Nevada MORE (N.H.), Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrSessions argued presidents can obstruct justice in Clinton impeachment trial Trump Jr. to meet with Senate panel amid Russia probe Trump’s Russian winter grows colder with Flynn plea deal MORE (N.C.), Saxby ChamblissClarence (Saxby) Saxby ChamblissLobbying World Former GOP senator: Let Dems engage on healthcare bill OPINION: Left-wing politics will be the demise of the Democratic Party MORE (Ga.), Tom CoburnThomas (Tom) Allen CoburnFormer GOP senator: Trump has a personality disorder Lobbying World -trillion debt puts US fiscal house on very shaky ground MORE (Okla.), Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsOvernight Health Care: 3.6M signed up for ObamaCare in first month | Ryan pledges 'entitlement reform' next year | Dems push for more money to fight opioids Study: ObamaCare bills backed by Collins would lower premiums Right scrambles GOP budget strategy MORE (Maine), Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerFormer Dem Tenn. gov to launch Senate bid: report McConnell 'almost certain' GOP will pass tax reform Former New Mexico gov: Trump's foreign policy is getting 'criticized by everybody' MORE (Tenn.), Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeGOP strategist donates to Alabama Democrat Sasse: RNC help for Roy Moore 'doesn't make any sense' Sasse calls RNC decision to resume support for Moore 'bad' and 'sad' MORE (Ariz.), Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGOP and Dems bitterly divided by immigration We are running out of time to protect Dreamers US trade deficit rises on record imports from China MORE (S.C.), Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerDems look to use Moore against GOP Senate hearing shows Fed chair nominee acts the part Senate GOP votes to begin debate on tax bill MORE (Nev.), John HoevenJohn Henry HoevenMcConnell works to salvage tax bill GOP to reduce tax relief by 0B to win over deficit hawks  The Hill's Whip List: Where Republicans stand on Senate tax bill MORE (N.D.), Johnny IsaksonJohn (Johnny) Hardy IsaksonSenate ethics panel wants details on sexual harassment allegations Senate leaders push tax debate into Friday Senate Ethics Committee opens 'preliminary inquiry' into Franken allegations MORE (Ga.), Mark KirkMark KirkHigh stakes as Trump heads to Hill Five things to watch for at Trump-Senate GOP meeting Giffords, Scalise highlight party differences on guns MORE (Ill.), John McCainJohn Sidney McCainGOP strategist donates to Alabama Democrat Meghan McCain knocks Bannon: 'Who the hell are you' to criticize Romney? Dems demand Tillerson end State hiring freeze, consult with Congress MORE (Ariz.), Pat Toomey (Pa.) and Roger WickerRoger Frederick WickerSenator predicts Congress will wrap up tax work in two weeks The Hill's Whip List: Where Republicans stand on Senate tax bill US warship collides with Japanese tug boat MORE (Miss.). Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) missed the vote.

The vote comes nearly four months after 26 people, including 20 first-graders, were killed by a lone gunman at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

The crime shocked the nation and changed the debate on gun control in Washington. Relatives of the victims lobbied the Senate to allow the gun bill to come to the floor, aligning themselves with the president, who also had demanded the vote.

“Today let us decide that there will be no more Newtowns,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said ahead of the vote.

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."

The Senate bill would expand background checks on gun purchases, crack down on straw purchasers of guns and beef up security in schools.



Immediately after the vote, Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidBill O'Reilly: Politics helped kill Kate Steinle, Zarate just pulled the trigger Tax reform is nightmare Déjà vu for Puerto Rico Ex-Obama and Reid staffers: McConnell would pretend to be busy to avoid meeting with Obama MORE (D-Nev.) reiterated that the first amendment to be considered for the bill will be a deal on background checks worked out by Sens. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinTrump rips Dems a day ahead of key White House meeting Senate panel moves forward with bill to roll back Dodd-Frank Wealthy outsiders threaten to shake up GOP Senate primaries MORE (D-W.Va.) and Toomey. Amendments to the bill are expected to need 60 votes for passage.


The background checks deal between the centrist Democrat, who has an A rating from the National Rifle Association (NRA), and the conservative Republican has given new momentum to the gun control legislation.

Sen. Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerAmerica isn't ready to let Sessions off his leash Schumer celebrates New York Giants firing head coach: ‘About time’ GOP should reject the left's pessimism and the deficit trigger MORE (D-N.Y.) has described tougher background checks as the “sweet spot” for gun control — and likely the most meaningful provisions that could be approved by the Senate. Other measures backed by Obama, including a ban on “assault weapons” — certain semi-automatic weapons with military features — were not included in the bill.

The Manchin-Toomey language would require background checks for all firearm sales at gun shows and over the Internet, except for those between friends and acquaintances. The background checks would have to be accompanied by records proving to law enforcement officials they took place.

The initial vote on Thursday was on a motion to end debate on a motion to proceed to the gun control bill. 

Reid said that he hoped that after Republicans were caught up on the Manchin-Toomey changes, he could get a unanimous consent agreement to immediately hold a vote on the motion to proceed, bypassing another 30 hours of debate.

“This bill is a clear overreach that will predominantly punish and harass our neighbors, friends and family,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGOP strategist donates to Alabama Democrat McConnell names Senate GOP tax conferees Brent Budowsky: A plea to Alabama voters MORE (R-Ky.) said Thursday on the Senate floor. “The following offenses would now be federal crimes: An uncle giving his nephew a hunting rifle for Christmas, a niece giving her aunt a handgun for protection. ... These people I’m describing are not criminals.”

Thursday evening, the Senate approved a motion to proceed to the gun control bill by voice-vote.

The Senate can now officially start considering amendments to the bill, S. 649, the Safe Communities, Safe Schools Act, which would expand background checks on gun purchases, crack down on straw purchasers of guns and beef up security in schools. The Senate is expected to work on the bill next week.

Thursday’s floor action sets up what will likely be weeks of heated debate and political wrangling over an issue that has failed to gain traction in Congress in the last decade.

Democrats will need at least five Republicans to vote in favor of a final bill to send it to the House, but only appear to have Toomey and Kirk on board so far.

They also cannot count on all of the upper chamber Democrats supporting a final bill.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said Thursday's vote was "an important milestone but an early milestone."

—This story was posted at 11:35 a.m. and updated at 7:09 p.m.