Things are moving very quickly now. But it looks as if the plan hatched by far right GOP Senators to filibuster the motion to proceed to debate on the gun proposals may be in real trouble.
As of now, seven Republican Senators have now confirmed that they oppose the hard right bloc and will support moving to debate. They are: John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Tom Coburn, Johnny Isakson, Dean Heller, Kelly Ayotte, and Susan Collins.
Collins also says she’s encouraged by the emerging compromise being negotiated by Senators Joe Manchin and Pat Toomey, which is suggestive: It means a few Republicans really could, in the end, support a bipartisan compromise on background checks.
All of that is good news. Now for the bad news.
Senator Max Baucus confirmed today that he has not made up his mind on whether to support allowing the gun proposals to go to a debate. In other words, he isn’t preparing to rule out joining with Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and Mitch McConnell in blocking the gun proposals from reaching the Senate floor. Which raises a question: Are there any other red state Dems who could join this filibuster, too?
Right now, if you total up the 55 Dem Senators, plus the seven Republicans who support moving to a debate, that makes 62 Senators. Dems can only afford to lose two red state Dems if they are going to break the GOP’s front end filibuster on moving to debate (or more, if more Republicans, such as Toomey, come out for the motion to proceed).
But if red state Dems can work up the courage to at least allow a debate on these proposals, then we are moving forward and the far right bloc’s front-end obstructionism will have been broken. And in truth, I believe they will support debate. After all, they have all the cover they could possibly have, with at least seven Republicans supporting this, too.
Now, all of this doesn’t mean there still isn’t trouble ahead. Republicans will obviously filibuster the bill later, meaning it will require 60 votes to end debate, too. But the current state of play suggests a potential endgame in this battle. If Harry Reid allows amendments — depriving Republicans of procedural objections — you could see a handful of Republican Senators deciding to support a vote to end debate, even if they vote No on the final proposal. This would be a good way of giving the Newtown families something — as Obama said, “they deserve a vote” — while maintaining opposition to the final proposal. Or, if the Manchin-Toomey compromise comes together, you could see a few Republicans actually support the final proposal.
To be sure, there will be a good deal of “poison pill” mischief throughout the amendment process, and there will be a lot of annoying hints from red state Dems that they could support this or that poison pill. You could see Republicans offer fake procedural objections as an excuse to scuttle the outcome. So, yes, there’s still a long way from here to there. But the far right group’s blockade on proceeding to debate could be collapsing. And overall, it’s way premature to declare defeat in this battle.
UPDATE: Two more: GOP Senators Jeff Flake and Saxby Chambliss also support proceeding to a debate. That makes a total of nine GOP Senators who are willing to buck the far right bloc and hold a debate on the gun proposals. The gun control forces can afford to lose a few red state Dems on the motion to proceed now.
UPDATE II: My Post colleagues report that Mark Kirk supports proceeding to debate, too, so that makes 10.