The Senate failed Monday to take any action to limit gun sales to people whose names appear on federal terror watch lists, as Republicans voted to impose a three-day waiting period and Democrats sought to allow the government to ban such sales.
The votes followed the quick rejection of a pair of amendments that would have expanded background checks for people buying guns.
Senate Democrats waged a nearly 15-hour filibuster last week to force these votes on gun control measures after a June 12 mass shooting that left 49 victims dead in Orlando.
"What am I going to tell 49 grieving families?...What am I going to tell the community of Orlando?" Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson said. "Sadly what I'm going to have to tell them is the NRA won again."
Connecticut Sen. Christopher S. Murphy, who led the filibuster, said before the votes that he wasn't certain of the outcome but believed it was important to put senators on the record. Others argued that the Senate should vote on something that could actually be adopted.
"Today's votes to make a safer America failed," Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-NY, tweeted. "But they will not be the last in this fight. It's still the beginning."
The first vote of the afternoon came on a Republican-backed amendment would have increased funding for federal background checks and notified law enforcement if someone investigated for terrorism in the past five years tries to purchase a gun.
The measure, sponsored by Sen. Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa, received 53 yes votes, short of the 60 needed for adoption.
A broader Democratic amendment garnered only 44 of the 60 votes needed for passage. The measure, sponsored by Murphy, D-Conn., aimed to expand the National Instant Criminal Background Check System by requiring a boost in how records are shared for identifying anyone who should be banned from purchasing guns. It would also require a background check for every gun sale, including those on the internet and at gun shows.
Afterward, the Senate took up a measure sponsored by Texas Republican John Cornyn that would impose a 72-hour delay on gun purchases by people on terror watch lists. The amendment received 53 of 60 votes needed for adoption.
California Democrat Dianne Feinstein's amendment, which would allow the attorney general to stop gun purchases by those on terrorist watch lists, also failed after receiving 47 of the 60 votes needed.
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, told reporters she hopes to unveil a bipartisan compromise on gun control Tuesday, saying there is “tremendous interest from both sides of the aisle, which is encouraging.” Collins said she would like to have a press conference after caucus lunches Tuesday.
“I realize people feel very strongly in support of the Feinstein and Cornyn amendments, but I think it’s evident that neither has the votes necessary to pass,” she added. “So my hope is that we’ll be able to present a bipartisan compromise.”
Cornyn said Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has told Collins she will get a vote on her proposal if she wants one. He said he hasn't read Collins proposal because it's not finished yet.
Feinstein said she was skeptical that under Collins's version "we would be left with a bill that has no teeth."
Some member crossed party lines. Republicans Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and Mark Kirk of Illinois, both facing tough re-election bids, voted for both the versions of the terror watch list amendment.
Sen. Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said he was skeptical of Ayotte's motives. "She should make up her mind and not be a hypocrite," Reid said. "The junior senator from New Hampshire says she's voting yes on everything. That's not logical but that's what she's doing."
Democrat Jon Tester, a Montana senator who leads the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, voted against the background check amendment championed by Democrats because of what an aide described as concerns about blocking relatives and neighbors from buying and selling firearms to one another without running background checks.