Thursday, December 3, 2015

Senate Democrats' Gun Control Measures Fail Day After California Shooting

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A pair of gun control measures failed in the Senate Thursday evening, a day after a mass shooting in California that killed 14 people.

Senate Democrats made a last-minute effort to attach two amendments to Senate Republicans' legislation to defund Planned Parenthood and repeal parts of Obamacare. The amendments, which would have expanded background checks and made it harder for known or suspected terrorists to purchase guns, failed by votes of 45-54 and 47-50, respectively. Democrats needed 60 votes for each of the amendments to pass.

Republican Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk, who is facing a tough re-election, joined Democrats in voting for the amendment dealing with suspected terrorists introduced by Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California.

Kirk also crossed party lines to vote for expanding background checks. He was joined on that vote by three other Republicans senators: Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, Susan Collins of Maine, and John McCain of Arizona. All four also voted for similar bipartisan measures introduced by West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin and Toomey in the aftermath of the 2013 Newtown shooting.

North Dakota Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, who will be among the most vulnerable Democrats in 2018, voted with Republicans on both amendments.

The vote on the gun control amendments will likely be used by Democrats to attack Republicans running in battleground Senate races who voted against the measures.

Before Thursday afternoon's vote on the reconciliation bill, Senate Democrats announced they would be introducing the amendments in a press conference.

“The scourge of gun violence that has swept through the country in recent years has led to the loss of thousands on thousands of lives. It’s an epidemic that must be addressed head on, and that means keeping guns out of the hands of people who should not have guns,” said Sen. Chuck Schumer, who runs messaging for Senate Democrats. “Enough is enough and Senate Democrats are not waiting one more day — Today is the day we act.”

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid also took to the Senate floor to urge his colleagues to take action in the aftermath of several recent shootings.

Wednesday's shooting in California came less than a week after a shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado.

"We are complicit through our inaction. And if we continue to fail to act, we will be complicit today and everyday into the future," Reid said. "We will keep ending up right back here, mourning the innocent victims of San Bernardino or Charleston or Newtown. When the victims turn to us for leadership and help, we will have nothing to show them but empty hands and gestures."

The amendments would have been part of the reconciliation package — a complex budgetary tool Republicans are using, because it requires only 51 votes, to send their policy priorities over to President Barack Obama's desk. The White House has said the president will veto the legislation.

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