In an emotional speech in Connecticut on Monday, President Obama smacked the Republican senators who are threatening to block a vote on new gun control measures, saying they were playing politics at the expense of shooting victims and their families. “What’s more important to you–our children or an ‘A’ grade from the gun lobby?” he said.
“Some 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 ,” he told the crowd, which included relatives of those killed in the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary school. “They’re saying your opinion doesn’t matter. And that’s not right.”
The crowd started to chant, “We want a vote! We want a vote!”
On Monday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell announced he would join a group of 13 Senate GOPers promising to filibuster if Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid moves a bill on gun legislation later this week. The move is being spearheaded by Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky, Ted Cruz of Texas, Marco Rubio of Florida, and Mike Lee of Utah.
Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain broke from his fellow lawmakers. “I don’t understand it,” he said on Sunday. “The purpose of the United States Senate is to debate and to vote and to let the people know where we stand.”
During his speech Obama urged Americans to pressure Congress–returning from a two-week reccess–to pass meaningful gun control legislation. Reid is expected to bring gun legislation to the floor this week. The legislation, which is not final, is expected to beef up background checks for firearm purchases. Universal background checks and a ban on assault weapons ban—which Obama has been pushing for—stand little chance of passing.
“Newtown, we want you to know that we’re here with you. We will not walk away from the promises we’ve made. We are as determined as ever to do what must be done,” said Obama at the University of Hartford, just 50 miles from Sandy Hook.
Obama also blasted the notion that what happens to gun violence legislation in Congress this week will be a political victory or defeat for him.
“Connecticut, this is not about me. This is not about politics,” the president said. “This is about doing the right thing for all the families who are here that have been torn apart by gun violence. It’s about them, and all the families going forward so we can prevent this from happening again.”
msnbc political analyst Ron Reagan told Matthews that it’s “shocking and frankly shameful that this soon after a tragedy like Sandy Hook in Newtown, that we’re talking about loopholes, filibusters and things like that.”
NBC News’ chief White House correspondent Chuck Todd questioned the National Rifle Association, which has been lobbying hard against the vote, arguing more guns–not less–are the answer. The NRA, said Todd, became a powerful lobby because of its bipartisan outreach. “They have now alienated a big part of the Democratic Party,” said Todd. “I think they’ll live to regret this.”