White House adviser Dan Pfeiffer on Sunday said a group of Senate Republicans would go back on their word to the families of Newtown, Conn., if they choose to filibuster gun control legislation that is set to come to the floor this week.
Meanwhile, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., also called on the group to stand down and allow gun-related votes to occur.
Pfeiffer, appearing on the Sunday talk shows, noted that Republicans and Democrats alike stood and applauded Feb. 12 during President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address when he called for an up-or-down vote on gun control legislation.
Now, however, a group of at least four Senate Republicans — with more expected to join it — is threatening to block debate on a package of proposals that includes new penalties for gun traffickers and universal background checks on firearms purchases.
“If you remember, during the State of the Union, with the families of Newtown in the audience, every member of Congress stood up and applauded when the president called for an up-or-down vote on these measures,” Pfeiffer said on ABC’s “This Week.” “Now that the cameras are off and they are not forced to look the Newtown families in the face, now they want to make it harder and filibuster it. We can’t have it.”
Republican Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida, Rand Paul of Kentucky, Mike Lee of Utah and Ted Cruz of Texas have threatened to block the gun control package, calling it an assault on Americans’ Second Amendment rights. But as many as nine other Senate Republicans are expected to sign on to the lawmakers’ threat as the debate over guns reaches full pitch this week.
McCain indicated Sunday that he would not be among them, instead joining the White House’s call for an up-or-down vote even though he has reservations about the background check plan.
“I don’t understand it,” McCain said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “What are we afraid of?”
Under new Senate rules agreed to at the beginning of the year, Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., could sidestep the Republicans’ effort to block a motion to proceed to the gun control package. But Reid has not indicated whether he would take advantage of the new rules.
McCain said the GOP should not force Reid to resort to the new rules to bypass the filibuster threat on the motion to proceed because the majority leader has already promised that Republicans will have the chance to amend the gun legislation itself.
“I do not understand why United States senators would want to block debate when the leader has said we can have amendments,” McCain said.
Earlier Sunday, Democratic Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy defended the tough new gun and ammunition restrictions that he signed into law at the state level on April 4. Malloy said Congress should follow Connecticut’s lead, particularly on its requirement that all gun sales be subject to criminal background checks.
Malloy assailed the National Rifle Association and its outspoken leader, Wayne LaPierre, for opposing the background check proposal even though it enjoys 90 percent support in public polls.
“Wayne reminds me of the clowns at the circus,” Malloy said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “They get the most attention. It’s what they’re paid to do. This guy is so out of whack it’s unbelievable.”
Malloy said the opposition of the NRA to new gun proposals “is about the ability of the gun industry to sell as many guns to people as possible.”
The NRA sent its own emissary to the Sunday talk shows to promote a package of school security proposals that the organization is pushing in place of new gun restrictions. Asa Hutchinson, a former Republican representative from Arkansas who led an NRA-funded task force that developed the proposals, highlighted recommendations that include the placement of armed guards at every school, even as he stressed that his group was not recommending that teachers be armed.
“It’s not about arming teachers,” Hutchinson said on “Fox News Sunday.” “Teachers should teach, and others should protect.”