After a lot of bluster from a handful of hard right Senators who vowed to block debate of gun legislation, their filibuster was just defeated by a solid margin in the Senate. The vote was 68-31.
This obviously doesn’t mean that the next filibuster will be easy to break. But it’s an encouraging first step.
In a welcome development, a number of Republicans voted to break the filibuster. Among them: John McCain, Kelly Ayotte, Tom Coburn, Saxby Chambliss, Johnny Isakson, Pat Toomey, and Lindsey Graham. This is potentially important. It signals that there are at least some Republicans who are uncomfortable with using procedural shenanigans to stymie the debate over gun violence.
Some or even most of these Senators could obviously still filibuster on the motion to end debate. But some of them could conceivably be candidates for supporting the final bill, or perhaps could vote to end debate while opposing the final proposal (which could then pass by simple majority). McCain, for instance, previously cut an ad in support of expanded background checks. Coburn supports the general policy goal but still has concerns about records. Isakson has already said there should be an up or down vote. Toomey obviously already supports the compromise. So perhaps you could see enough Republicans agreeing to give the families something — as Obama has put it, the families “deserve a vote” — even if they can’t support the final proposal.
Meanwhile, it is simply shameful that two red state Democrats — Mark Pryor and Mark Begich — voted with the hard right bloc to sustain the filibuster. Again, today’s vote was only about whether to debate a proposal supported by nine in 10 Americans. But these two Democrats voted No. Meanwhile, Max Baucus, who voted Yes on moving to debate today, announced this morning that he opposes the proposals. That means we can probably write off three red state Dems (though this could change if more Republicans come out in support of it).
These No votes were joined by more than two dozen other Senators, including Mitch McConnell, Marco Rubio, and Ted Cruz. According to Dave Weigel, these Senators all voted against debating gun violence while Newtown families looked on.
It was good to see the hard right’s filibuster decisively defeated. But it’s dispiriting to think that nearly one third of United States Senators don’t believe the Senate should even debate solutions to a problem that is killing thousands of Americans a year.
UPDATE: A number of other Republicans voted to move to debate, including Dean Heller, Susan Collins, and Bob Corker, who could also be potentially gettable.