If there had been any GOP objection to holding the vote on the motion to proceed, the Senate would not have been able to make progress on the bill until Friday afternoon at the earliest.
The Senate bill doesn’t include an assault weapons ban or limits on magazine capacity, though Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) promised a vote on those provisions as amendments.
Democrats have been pushing stricter gun laws since December when a gunman killed 20 first-graders and six school employees at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. Family members of the victims came to Washington this week to push senators to pass new gun control laws.
The first amendment being considered is a bipartisan deal on background checks from Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.).
Republicans expressed concern that expanding background checks could create a federal registry of gun owners and make it harder for family members to transfer firearms. Lee complained that senators hadn’t been given enough time to read through the Manchin-Toomey plan.
"Yesterday, Sens. Toomey and Manchin announced a new proposal, yet as of this very moment not a single senator has been provided the text of that provision," Lee said. "It’s critical that we all know what’s in the bill before we vote on it. … Proponents of this bill say the people deserve a vote, but don’t they also deserve to know what they’re voting on. I think they do.”
Manchin and Toomey’s deal would expand background checks to cover all sales at gun shows and over the Internet. Those background checks would have to be accompanied by records proving to law enforcement officials they took place. It would exempt gun sales and transfers between friends and acquaintances, and explicitly ban the federal government from creating a national firearms registry.
Manchin called up his amendment for consideration before the Senate adjourned for the weekend.
Another likely amendment will come from Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), who has said he’d offer his own gun bill as an alternative to the Democratic proposal. Amendments are expected to need 60 votes for passage.