Fili-bust: Senate Clears Way for Gun Bill Vote

Two vulnerable Democrats vote against moving forward on gun bill.


From left, Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. Polls show Begich and Flake suffered dips in popularity following their gun votes.

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In a rare moment of bipartisan agreement, the Senate voted to overcome a threatened filibuster by conservative lawmakers to block new gun control legislation. The 68 to 31 vote brings the Senate one step closer to passing sweeping gun legislation.

[RELATED: GOP Senators Say Filibuster No Waste of Time]

"It is a big deal," says Tim Kaine, D-Va. "There has not been a meaningful discussion on the floor of this body on these kinds of reasonable limitations for a very long time ... it was the topic that could not be discussed."

For Democrats up for reelection in Republican-leaning states in 2014, the procedural vote had to be carefully weighed. Sen. Max Baucus of Montana ultimately voted 'yes' to move forward, although he said he opposed the legislation including the background check provision. Baucus said that he received little pressure from leadership to vote along party lines.

"I don't support the bill, but I support open debate," Baucus says. "Montanans are opposed to this bill by a very large margin."

[PHOTOS: Senate Begins Gun Control Hearing]

Two Democrats, Sen. Mark Begich of Alaska and Sen. Mark Pryor of Arkansas, voted against bringing the bill to the floor. Sixteen Republicans voted "yes" in order to move forward with the debate.

"I welcome a debate on the Second Amendment in the United States Senate. I want to proceed to this bill. I want to debate it. I am not afraid," Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said in a statement.

Three Republicans ­­­-- Sens. Ted Cruz, Texas, Rand Paul, Ky., and Mike Lee, Utah -- voted against bringing the bill forward and said they were appalled that a draft of the background check compromise legislation Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., and Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., had agreed upon still had not been released to Senate offices on Capitol Hill.

Toomey and Manchin's bill will be the first amendment the Senate votes on the gun bill. But the senate must wait 30 hours, which could push the votes into next week. The measure would extend physician's rights to enter mental health records into the national background check system and would tighten internet sales and close the so-called gun show loophole so that private sellers at an event would have a licensed firearm dealer run background checks on potential weapons buyers.

[PHOTOS: Obama Pushes Gun Laws in Connecticut Speech]

"As of this morning, not a single senator has been provided the legislative language of this provision. Because the background-check measure is the centerpiece of this legislation it is critical that we know what is in the bill before we vote on it," a joint release from Cruz, Paul and Lee said. "The American people expect more and deserve better."

Senators will begin voting on amendments next week. The first will be the Manchin, Toomey background check bill, but Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., whose own assault weapons ban did not make it into the sweeping gun bill, will offer her gun ban as an amendment.

"What I have cared deeply about was getting a vote," Feinstein says. "Whether it wins or not at least I tried because I know what is out there."

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