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 being.
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 Begich (Alaska) and Mark Pryor (Ark.), both of whom face reelection next year.
A total of 29 of the Senate’s 45 Republicans – well over half – voted to block the bill from advancing. The 29 included the entirety of the Senate GOP leadership and every Senate Republican rumored to be eyeing a presidential campaign in 2016.
Relatives of the Newtown victims were not pleased: “The senators who have vowed to filibuster this bill should be ashamed of their attempt to silence efforts to prevent the next American tragedy. 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.”
At this point, let’s pause to take stock of where things stand, procedurally. The Senate Republicans hoped to block the motion to proceed, which clears the way for debate, and this morning that effort failed. This vote, however, was only on cloture – there will now be an up-or-down vote on the motion to proceed, which could come anytime in the next 30 hours, depending on how annoying the GOP leadership chooses to be.
Once that’s done, Senate debate on the gun legislation will begin in earnest, starting with an amendment – bringing the bipartisan compromise on background checks, negotiated by Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), into the core bill. The vote on that amendment has not yet been scheduled – it will be dependent on how quickly the Senate can get through the motion to proceed – but it will be the first vote.
The debate is expected to last a few weeks.
I mention these procedural details because while this morning’s vote was a minor miracle, it’s really just the start of a long, tedious, frustrating process. As we discussed yesterday, this is an endurance race, and today’s vote determined that the legislation can clear the starting blocks. But the race has barely gotten underway and there’s a lot of running left to do.