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Democrats take over floor to protest Senate inaction on gun control

The Hill logo The Hill 6/15/2016 Jordain Carney
Democrat holds up Senate floor over gun control © Provided by The Hill Democrat holds up Senate floor over gun control

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and other Democrats have taken over the Senate floor to call for tougher gun control laws, and specifically action on keeping people on terrorism watch lists from buying guns.

“I'm prepared to stand on this floor and talk about the need for this body to come together on keeping terrorists away from getting guns ... for, frankly, as long as I can, because I know that we can come together on this issue,” Murphy said in beginning the talking filibuster.

Murphy began speaking at about 11:20, and the filibuster was continuing just before 2 p.m. Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.) Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Dick Durbin (Ill.) and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) had joined Murphy in speaking.

The Senate is currently considering the Commerce, Justice and Science spending bill. Though no votes are currently scheduled, the senators are blocking other senators from making any amendments to the bill “pending”—the first step to getting a vote.

"I don't think we should proceed with debate on amendment to this bill until we have figured out a way to come together," Murphy said, referring to the appropriations bill.

The Democrats are also technically blocking Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) from ending debate on the legislation, though a spokesman shot down any speculation that the Republican leader would have tried to wrap up work on the spending bill Wednesday.

Democrats have given no indication how long they plan to hold the Senate floor hostage. Chris Harris, a spokesman for Murphy, said Democrats launched the talkathon because the will no longer accept “inaction or half measures in the face of continued slaughter.”

The effort comes days after the worst mass shooting incident in U.S. history. A gunman armed with an AR-15 rifle and handgun on early Sunday morning killed 49 people at an Orlando nighclub.

Murphy is well known for his support for tougher gun control laws. His state saw one of America's most infamous gun crimes when 20 school children and six adults were killed in the 2012 Newtown shooting.

"I can't tell you how hard it is to look into the eyes of the families of those little boys and girls who were killed in Sandy Hook and tell them that almost four years later we've done nothing, nothing at all," Murphy said.

Since Orlando, Democrats have put a renewed focused on legislation meant to block the sale of guns to people on the terrorism watch list.

An effort to move legislation was previously blocked last year.

Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) became the first Republican senator to come join Murphy and other Democrats, asking a question about the terror watchlist.

"I'm familiar with the terrorist screening database. There are a series of lists that fall from the database, but I don't think there's any such thing as 'the terrorist watchlist,' and I certainly don't understand what due process rights would apply," Sasse said.

Sasse’s comments hit at a key GOP critique of Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s proposal to give the attorney general broad authority to block individuals on the terror watchlist from being able to buy a gun or explosive.

Republicans argue that it would negatively impact Americans who aren’t tied to terrorism and violate their constitutional rights by stopping them from buying a gun without court approval.

Instead Sasse and most Republicans are supporting an alternative proposal Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) to allow the attorney general to delay suspected terrorists from getting a gun for up to 72 hours as they try to get a court to approve blocking the sale of the firearm.

Updated at 1:52 p.m.


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