Congress is back in Washington, D.C. following a two-week recess with a full docket of legislative issues to address. Amongst them is the Senate's proposed gun control legislation, an issue that was brought to the forefront after the Newtown, Conn. shooting last December, but which has seemingly lost momentum.
The Senate's bill faces opposition from Republicans opposed to tightening gun laws and expanding background checks for gun purchases. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said he would join a Republican filibuster of the bill being led by Sens. Rand Paul, R-Ky, and Ted Cruz, R-Texas. A spokesman said McConnell is prepared to join the 13 other filibuster supporters if Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) introduces the bill:
Sen. McConnell opposes the Reid bill … While nobody knows yet what Sen. Reid's plan is for the gun bill, if he chooses to file cloture on the motion to proceed to the Reid bill, Sen. McConnell will oppose cloture on proceeding to that bill.
The bill is already considerably weaker than Democrats originally wanted. Reid elected to omit the assault weapons ban proposed by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., due to fears the measure would derail the entire bill.
President Barack Obama spoke in Hartford, Conn. Monday to laud the state's newly passed gun control laws and encourage national action:
This week is the time for Congress to do the same … [S]ome folks back in Washington are already floating the idea that they may use political stunts to prevent votes on any of these reforms. Think about that. They're not just saying they'll vote 'no' on ideas that almost all Americans support. They're saying they'll do everything they can to even prevent any votes on these provisions. They're saying your opinion doesn't matter. And that's not right.
The president and Democratic senators insist the bill deserves to be brought to the floor for a healthy debate, and those who oppose it are free to vote 'no' at that time. Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia argued that the “reasonable majority” must be heard on the issue of gun control legislation:
The issue before us is whether a passionate minority – of senators and special interests – will block the majority from full debate and votes on gun safety. That passionate minority is pulling out all the stops … Nearly four months after the horrific Newtown shootings, the Senate is poised to do something that hasn't been done for a long time in Congress – actually have a meaningful floor debate on reducing gun violence. Some senators and lobbyists are trying to make sure that no vote can take place. This should outrage the strong majority of American citizens who believe in reasonable gun rules to protect public safety.
Some Republicans argue the party is actually better served by allowing the bill to come to a vote. This would force Democrats to vote yay or nay, which could jeopardize vulnerable legislators in the next election. Conservatives also say it may be worth the risk of taking a vote on the bill because its defeat would "utterly humiliate Obama."
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