Policy

Compromise Gun Measure Survives Key Vote

Competing Republican amendment threatened to siphon off support

Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins has been working on a compromise. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

A compromise gun proposal that has received bipartisan support survived a key test on the Senate floor Thursday, despite a competing amendment advanced by more conservative lawmakers that threatened to siphoned off needed votes.

The bipartisan measure backed by Sen. Susan Collins, a Maine Republican, received support from 52 senators, enough to keep it from being tabled indefinitely but not enough to secure its eventual passage.

Collins said she will continue to seek a path forward for her proposal to limit people on some terror watch lists from buying guns.  

"I'm very pleased with the strong vote today," Collins said. She noted the two senators absent, Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Bernard Sanders, likely would have supported her measure. 

Immediately after what he called a "show vote," Minority Leader Harry Reid called for a second vote to adopt the measure as an amendment to a spending bill.

"The Republican leadership has a responsibility to bring the Collins bill to this floor for a real vote, not a fake vote,” the Nevada Democrat said.

The vote came barely an hour after House Democrats ended a nearly 26-hour siege on the House floor , demanding action on gun control. The Republican leadership adjourned the House for recess  before allowing a vote on any bill.

[ Gun Compromise Faces Challenges from Right and Left ]

Before Thursday's Senate vote, Majority Whip John Cornyn and Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., proposed a more limited measure, putting the burden on the government to stop a gun sale, rather than requiring the potential buyer to appeal a denied sale. Only 31 senators supported advancing the alternative measure.  

"We were trying to get something merged with Sen. Collins' proposal and we were unsuccessful doing that. So we'll have to focus on two separate bills, one that provides for due process and one that does not," Cornyn said.  

Collins' bill had the support of a bipartisan coalition, as well as several prominent retired military officers . The National Rifle Association has opposed it.  

"The NRA has such a grip on GOP leadership that they won’t even give bipartisan compromises a fair shake, Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a statement. "Now that Senate Republicans’ attempt to bury this amendment has failed, Senate Democrats call on our Republican colleagues to give this proposal a real vote and a chance to become law next week.”  

Cornyn said there will not be another vote on the Collins gun proposal. "That's not going to happen," Cornyn told Roll Call. "I think we're done.  

"We can continue talking about it, but I don't foresee us voting on anything until somebody can produce 60 votes."  

Collins told reporters that before the emergence of the alternative proposal, she believed that about 10 GOP senators, beyond the four co-sponsors, were "on the cusp" of supporting her measure. That total would have put the amendment in the range of the 60 supporters needed to overcome procedural hurdles down the road.  

[ Senate Rejects All 4 Gun Measures ]  

Following the June 12  terror shooting in Orlando that left 49 people dead, Congress has been working to find the right response. A Democratic filibuster last week led to votes on the Senate floor on Monday, including on a Democratic amendment banning gun sales for everyone on the government’s terror watch lists and a Republican proposal for a three-day waiting period.  

After both were blocked, Collins moved ahead with the Terrorist Firearms Prevention Act of 2016 to bar firearms from being sold to individuals on what are known as the “selectee” and “no fly” lists, rather than the considerably larger “Consolidated Terror Watch List.” The “selectee” list includes the names of those singled out for extra screening at airports.  

[ Who’s on What Watch List? ]  

On Thursday, her proposal faced a procedural vote known as a "motion to table," a tactic to dispose of a question before the Senate. If senators agreed to the motion, the amendment would have died.  

But if the motion is rejected, the amendment remains pending, allowing but not guaranteeing further votes.  

The bill received 52 votes, meaning that it survives to face another vote. But when the amendment will be considered again is unclear.  

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R- SC, one of Collin's co-sponsors, said he does not expect another vote on this proposal.    

"Probably not on this bill," Graham said. "Eventually this problem will be addressed one of two ways. We find a breakthrough, which I will seek. Or there will be another terrorist attack which will bring us right back to this issue. I hope we can do this without a terrorist attack."

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