Senate

Dems end Senate takeover after nearly 15 hours

Sen. Chris Murphy finally gave up control of the Senate floor early Thursday morning, just shy of 15 hours after Democrats started their filibuster to protest Congress’ inaction on gun control. 

“I’ve been so angry that this Congress has mustered absolutely no response to mass shooting after mass shooting,” Murphy said, ending his marathon floor session. “This exercise over the course of the last 14 hours has been in many ways a plea for this body to come together to find answers.” 

{mosads}The Connecticut Democrat took to the Senate floor around 11:20 a.m., pledging to “stand on this floor and talk … for, frankly, as long as I can.” 

Though Murphy said he wanted a deal on strengthening background checks and blocking suspected terrorists from buying a guns or explosive — and suggested one was possible — it’s unclear if the move pushed the Senate closer to passing a bipartisan compromise.

Instead, Murphy indicated that there is an “understanding” to allow for votes on two Democratic proposals but acknowledged “there’s no guarantee that those amendments pass.” 

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said he is still trying to work with Democrats to see if the two parties could find an agreement on suspected terrorists buying guns but said he’s skeptical of Democrats’ intentions.

“We’re trying to find out … whether this is an effort to find a solution and common ground or whether this is just an effort to try to embarrass people,” the Senate’s No. 2 Republican told The Hill Wednesday evening. “I haven’t yet concluded which one it is.” 

Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) shot down talk of an agreement Wednesday night, calling talk of “so-called negotiations … little more than a smokescreen.” 

“We are still waiting for Republicans to find the courage to stand up to the National Rifle Association and join with Democrats to keep guns out of the hands of terror suspects,” he said. 

Murphy’s effort won the support of dozens of Democratic senators, including Charles Schumer (N.Y.) and Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), as well as Hillary Clinton, the party’s presumptive nominee, and her rival Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). 

Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) — during an impassioned speech early Thursday morning — said it was “unacceptable” for the Senate to not take action on gun control.
 
“I have stood on too many street corners looking down at bodies,” said Booker, the former mayor of Newark, N.J.

The Senate is currently considering the Commerce, Justice and Science appropriations bill. Though no votes were scheduled for Wednesday, Murphy’s effort blocked his colleagues from making any amendments “pending” — the first step to getting a potential vote. 

Murphy and Democrats argued against starting debate on the legislation until reaching an agreement in light of the tragedy in Orlando over the weekend.

“The CJS bill includes the Department of Justice appropriation. So we are raising this issue on a bill which has real relevance on national security and law enforcement,” said Sen. Dick Durbin (Ill.), the Senate’s No. 2 Democrat. 

“The point that we’re getting to is this is the beginning of an important national debate brought on by the tragedy in Orlando,” he said later in the night.

Democrats’ frustration boiled over three days after the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. A gunman armed with a Sig Sauer MCX rifle and a handgun killed 49 people at an Orlando nightclub and wounded 53 more early Sunday morning.

Lawmakers repeatedly lashed out at their colleagues Wednesday for not acting despite a string of high-profile shootings in recent years.

“Mass shootings are now happening like clockwork in America,” Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said. “And like clockwork, this Congress does nothing about it.”

Warren said if lawmakers don’t act then after the next attack lawmakers will have “blood on their hands.” 

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) questioned what “invisible hand” was stopping the Senate from getting a deal on gun control, asking, “Is everyone so afraid of the NRA?”

The marathon speech wasn’t without light moments. Murphy spoke from the floor to his son Owen, who he said was sitting in the Senate gallery, apologizing for missing “pizza night.” 

“I hope that you’ll understand some day why we’re doing this,” he said. “Sometimes even if you don’t get everything that you want, trying hard, trying and trying and trying to do the right thing, is ultimately just as important.” 

Murphy said Democrats didn’t decide to stage the talkathon until Wednesday morning, though a staffer clarified they came up with the idea Tuesday. 

Since the Orlando attack, Democrats have put a renewed focused on legislation meant to block the sale of guns to people on terrorist watchlists. 

Noting the filibuster gained wide-spread attention Wednesday, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) said “the country is watching this because people are waiting for action.” 

Democrats have pledged to force a vote over a proposal from Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), but Republicans argue the measure is too broad and would negatively impact individuals not on the terrorist watchlist. 

Instead, Republicans are backing Cornyn’s measure that would allow the attorney general to delay suspected terrorists from getting a gun for up to 72 hours as they try to get a court to approve blocking the sale of the firearm. 

Reid, however, said Cornyn’s proposal, as well as a forthcoming bill from Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), would “move us farther away from compromise, not closer.”

Toomey’s legislation would require the attorney general to create a list of “likely terrorists” that could be blocked from buying guns. The list would then be submitted to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which would review it annually and remove any Americans inadvertently included, according to a summary of the forthcoming bill from his office.
Tags Amy Klobuchar Bernie Sanders Charles Schumer Chris Murphy Claire McCaskill Dianne Feinstein Dick Durbin Elizabeth Warren Gun control Harry Reid Hillary Clinton John Cornyn Orlando nightclub shooting Ron Wyden
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