White House Press Secretary Jay Carney and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Monday slammed Senate Republicans for threatening to block debate on legislation designed to address gun violence.
Thirteen Republicans signed a letter to Reid saying they “intend to oppose any legislation that would infringe on the American people’s constitutional right to bear arms, or on their ability to exercise this right without being subjected to government surveillance.”
They later specifically targeted the motion to proceed to the bill (S 649). Reid made that motion after the Senate resumed work Monday afternoon, but then he turned to morning business.
“If there’s a member of Congress who’s contemplating filibustering some of this, it would be interesting to see if they stood and applauded during the State of the Union address,” Carney said at the White House.
“These victims deserve a vote. And regardless, if they oppose this legislation, have the courage to say so on the floor and vote no. Don’t hide behind a procedural action to prevent a vote. That’s the wrong thing to do,” he said.
Carney made his remarks with President Barack Obama set to fly this afternoon to Connecticut to push for his gun safety agenda. It is the start of a weeklong blitz by the administration on the issue.
The president will return to Washington with 11 family members of victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre on Air Force One. Carney said the families will be in Washington to lobby Congress.
On the Senate floor, Reid urged Republicans to call off a proposed filibuster and allow the Senate take up the legislation.
Reid said, “It’s time Congress engaged in a meaningful conversation and thoughtful debate for how to change the law and culture that have allowed this violence to grow so much,” said Reid, after citing the December shooting in Newtown, Conn., that killed 26 individuals, 20 of them elementary school students.
Reid said he was “deeply troubled” by the GOP letter, signed by Rand Paul of Kentucky, Mike Lee of Utah, Ted Cruz of Texas and Marco Rubio of Florida, along others.
Reid said it goes against the ethos of the Senate.
“This flies in the face of spirited discussion that began in the first days of this institution,” Reid said.
His comments come after Republicans have criticized the majority leader for limiting their ability to offer amendments. They contend that he has been trying to protect vulnerable Democratic members. The vote-a-rama in March on the budget plan, which included several tough votes for both sides, was the first in four years.
Reid reiterated his pledge to allow a healthy debate and opportunity for amendments.
“I’ve said every idea should be debated and every issue should get a vote, from better mental health treatment, more secure schools, stronger background checks, banning assault weapons, the size of magazines or clips, and other issues should get a vote,” Reid said.
“There are strong feelings and deep disagreements about some of these measures, but everyone of these measures deserves a vote, a yes or a no,” Reid continued. “No hiding, no running from an issue that has captivated America.”