Democrats launch filibuster over gun control

Source: Emily Yehle and George Cahlink, E&E reporters • Posted: Thursday, June 16, 2016

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) vowed to keep talking on the Senate floor today until Republican leaders agree to consider gun control amendments, throwing a wrench into plans to pass the Commerce, Justice and Science Subcommittee spending bill.

Murphy and some fellow Senate Democrats are “holding the floor,” preventing consideration of any other amendments and complicating passage of the $56.3 billion package.

“I’m at my wits’ end. I’ve had enough,” said Murphy, after reminding colleagues of the 2012 shooting in his state that left 20 children dead at Sandy Hook Elementary School. “I don’t think we should proceed with debate on the amendments on this bill until we have figured a way to come together.”

Murphy, who has so far held the floor with help from two senators — fellow Connecticut Democrat Richard Blumenthal and New Jersey Democrat Cory Booker — tweeted his intentions: “I am prepared to stand on the Senate floor and talk about the need to prevent gun violence for as long as I can.”

The move comes two days after the mass shooting that ended with 49 dead and 53 injured in an Orlando, Fla., gay nightclub. The FBI had twice investigated the shooter, Omar Mateen, 29, for potential terrorism ties.

Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said the filibuster would continue until Democrats could get an agreement on votes on two amendments — one from Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and one from Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.).

Feinstein’s amendment would give the Justice Department authority to block suspected terrorists from buying guns and block sales to people on the terrorism watch list. Manchin has called for expanded background checks.

Durbin left open the possibility that Democrats would try and force similar votes on future appropriations bills.

“We’re starting here since it’s the Justice Department appropriation, but it may extend to other bills depending on what the circumstances are,” he said.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said today that the “very least” Republicans could do was pass the so-called “No Fly, No Buy” legislation.

“[R]ight now, our focus is to say to the Republicans in Congress: If 80-some percent of the American people, 70 percent of NRA [members], Republicans, Democrats, all support passing the ‘No Fly, No Buy’ legislation bill — if you’re not allowed to fly, you shouldn’t be allowed to buy the gun,” Pelosi said during a press conference.

“Let us prove to them, disprove what they suspect that the Republican majority in the Congress of the United States is a wholly owned subsidiary of the National Rifle Association,” Pelosi added. “And that is what is standing in the way of our being able to protect the American people.”

On the Senate floor, Booker said he had cleared his evening events “so that I could stay on this floor and support Senator Murphy as he pushes this body to come to some consensus.”

He said, “We just can’t go on with business as usual in this body at a time where there is such continued grievous threat and vulnerability to our country, where you see again and again mass shooting after mass shooting.”

Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) said the filibuster is merely “filling the dead air.” Republicans and Democrats are already in talks to find a compromise on the Feinstein amendment, he said.

“We all agree that known or suspected terrorists should not buy guns,” he said. “The only question is whether it is going to be done in a constitutional way or essentially you’re presumed guilty without forcing the government to actually produce any evidence.”

Reporter Hannah Hess contributed.