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Vote to talk about guns in Senate could indicate partisan detente

Senators voted Thursday to open a debate about gun control, but the bill has a long way to go before it becomes law:

Voting to approve a motion to proceed to debate on a gun bill is one thing. But eventually stitching together a coalition of the willing — or what gun-control advocates call “a coalition of the reasonable” — to vote for final passage of a bill that would strengthen gun laws and possibly restrict some gun rights is quite another. (Continue reading here for an analysis of how each senator voted today.)

Even if the Senate ultimately approves the bill, the Republican-controlled House would still have to vote for it. That is unlikely, but not impossible, Greg Sargent writes:

“The combination of having Manchin and Toomey as the main sponsors, and assuming it can pass the Senate with a significant majority, greatly increases the chances that it will attract enough Republican support to pass the House,” Rep. [Peter] King [R-N.Y.] told me in an interview. “If [Sen.] Pat Toomey [R-Penn.] can support it, most conservatives should be able to support it and should want to support it.”

Even if gun-control proposals are never enacted, legislative activity on the issue, along with apparent progress on other major questions, could indicate that Republicans and Democrats are cooperating again, as they haven’t in some time:

Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.), along side Sen. Patrick J. Toomey (R-Penn.), unveiled a bipartisan deal to expand background checks to all commercial sales of guns on Wednesday. (The Washington Post)

One of the things that appears to be happening is a return to the way that Congress normally used to work, with a broader cross section of its members getting involved in shaping deals — and, therefore, becoming invested in making them work.

Of late, issues do not get hashed out in a conference room in the House speaker’s office or at the Senate majority leader’s desk. Committee chairmen and rank-and-file senators are in the mix, cutting deals among themselves and outside interest groups, pledging to fight for them throughout the process.

Earlier Thursday, Vice President Biden had strong words for the National Rifle Association, the outside group most visibly opposed to new firearms legislation. He said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe”:

“The one thing the NRA has done so well lately is the disinformation. We use the word ‘registration’ – there is no registration in America.

“There is a paranoia that probably is a consequence of a whole range of things relating to federal government writ large, relating to where people are in their lives right now. I get all that. But the facts are, there’s not a single solitary thing that we have proposed . . . this argument that there’s any constitutional violation is absolutely not there.”

For more on gun control and today’s vote in the Senate, continue reading here.

Discuss this topic and other political issues in the politics discussion forums.

Max Ehrenfreund writes for Wonkblog and compiles Wonkbook, a daily policy newsletter. You can subscribe here. Before joining The Washington Post, Ehrenfreund wrote for the Washington Monthly and The Sacramento Bee.

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