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 BegichAlaska governor Walker suspends reelection campaign Alaska's lieutenant governor resigns over 'inappropriate comments' Republicans see silver linings in deep-blue states MORE (Alaska) and Mark PryorMark Lunsford 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 Health Care — Presented by the Coalition for Affordable Prescription Drugs — Senate blocks Dem measure on short-term health plans | Trump signs bill banning drug price 'gag clauses' | DOJ approves Aetna-CVS merger | Juul ramps up lobbying Trump signs bills banning drug pricing 'gag clauses' Senate defeats measure to overturn Trump expansion of non-ObamaCare plans MORE (Tenn.), Kelly AyotteKelly Ann AyotteElection Countdown: O'Rourke brings in massive M haul | Deal on judges lets senators return to the trail | Hurricane puts Florida candidates in the spotlight | Adelson spending big to save GOP in midterms GOP mulls having outside counsel question Kavanaugh, Ford Pallbearers, speakers announced for McCain's DC memorial service and Capitol ceremony MORE (N.H.), Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrDems can use subpoena power to reclaim the mantle of populism Collusion judgment looms for key Senate panel The National Trails System is celebrating 50 years today — but what about the next 50 years? MORE (N.C.), Saxby ChamblissClarence (Saxby) Saxby ChamblissA hard look at America after 9/11 Lobbying World Former GOP senator: Let Dems engage on healthcare bill MORE (Ga.), Tom CoburnThomas (Tom) Allen CoburnAmerican patients face too many hurdles in regard to health-care access Live coverage: Donnelly, Braun clash in Indiana debate The Hill's Morning Report — How will the Kavanaugh saga impact the midterms? MORE (Okla.), Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsConservatives bankrolled and dominated Kavanaugh confirmation media campaign The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by the Coalition for Affordable Prescription Drugs — Health care a top policy message in fall campaigns Susan Collins and the mob mentality MORE (Maine), Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerCorker: US must determine responsibility in Saudi journalist's death Dem senator calls for US action after 'preposterous' Saudi explanation Schumer: Fight for Senate is 'neck and neck' MORE (Tenn.), Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeTrump boosts McSally, bashes Sinema in Arizona Watch live: Trump speaks at Arizona rally Mnuchin to attend anti-terror meeting in Saudi Arabia following Khashoggi disappearance MORE (Ariz.), Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamCorker: US must determine responsibility in Saudi journalist's death Dem senator calls for US action after 'preposterous' Saudi explanation Trump calls Saudi explanation for journalist's death credible, arrests 'good first step' MORE (S.C.), Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerFive takeaways from testy Heller-Rosen debate in Nevada Heller complains about media in Senate debate: 'You see how they treat Kanye West' Election Countdown: Small-donor donations explode | Russian woman charged with midterm interference | Takeaways from North Dakota Senate debate | O'Rourke gives 'definitive no' to 2020 run | Dems hope Latino voters turn Arizona blue MORE (Nev.), John HoevenJohn Henry HoevenTrump poised to sign bipartisan water infrastructure bill Overnight Energy: Trump Cabinet officials head west | Zinke says California fires are not 'a debate about climate change' | Perry tours North Dakota coal mine | EPA chief meets industry leaders in Iowa to discuss ethanol mandate 74 protesters charged at Capitol in protest of Kavanaugh MORE (N.D.), Johnny IsaksonJohn (Johnny) Hardy IsaksonTrump renews attacks against Tester over VA nominee on eve of Montana rally House conservatives want ethics probe into Dems' handling of Kavanaugh allegations Senate eyes Kavanaugh floor vote next week MORE (Ga.), Mark KirkMark Steven KirkThis week: Trump heads to Capitol Hill Trump attending Senate GOP lunch Tuesday High stakes as Trump heads to Hill MORE (Ill.), John McCainJohn Sidney McCainMeghan McCain calls Russian attacks against her father the 'highest compliment' to her family Arizona Dems hope higher Latino turnout will help turn the state blue McConnell: GOP could try to repeal ObamaCare again after midterms MORE (Ariz.), Pat Toomey (Pa.) and Roger WickerRoger Frederick WickerSenate Republicans demand Google hand over memo advising it to hide data vulnerability Shipping companies want Congress to increase shipping truck size Ricin attacks will continue 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 Mason ReidFive takeaways from testy Heller-Rosen debate in Nevada Major overhauls needed to ensure a violent revolution remains fictional Senate heads home to campaign after deal on Trump nominees 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) ManchinFive takeaways from testy Heller-Rosen debate in Nevada Blankenship endorses ex-W.Va. GOP Senate rival, calls him 'lying' drug lobbyist Conservatives bankrolled and dominated Kavanaugh confirmation media campaign 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 SchumerThe Hill's Morning Report — Presented by the Coalition for Affordable Prescription Drugs — Health care a top policy message in fall campaigns McConnell says deficits 'not a Republican problem' Medicare for All is disastrous for American seniors and taxpayers 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 McConnellMeghan McCain calls Russian attacks against her father the 'highest compliment' to her family Schumer: Fight for Senate is 'neck and neck' Nikki Haley powerfully rebuts Trump 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.