Sen. Christopher S. Murphy claimed a small victory in the wee hours of Thursday morning as he wrapped up a filibuster over gun control in the aftermath of the Orlando terror attack.
He ultimately held the floor for 14 hours and 50 minutes.
“We have been given a commitment on a path forward to get votes on the floor of the Senate,” on amendments to keep guns out of the hands of terrorists and to expand background checks to gun shows and internet sales, the Connecticut Democrat announced before concluding his marathon talking effort.
Murphy made clear there was no commitment about the Senate adopting the proposals.
As Murphy held the floor, Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn said he and California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein were talking to see if there was room for consensus on how to best keep individuals on terror watch lists from buying guns .
“There’s no debate that we both want to keep guns out of the hands of terrorists. We want to make sure it’s done in a constitutional way,” the Texas Republican said.
Senate Democrats Begin Filibuster Over Gun Control
At several points in his filibuster, Murphy ceded the floor to his fellow Connecticut Democrat Richard Blumenthal. Galvanized by the 2012 shooting in their home state that killed 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, both senators urged a ban on assault weapons and better controls over who can buy guns.
Murphy has filed an amendment to the fiscal 2017 Commerce-Justice-Science spending bill to overhaul the nation’s background checks for gun purchasers, including closing the so-called “gun show loophole” by requiring background checks on all gun sales.
The spending bill was expected to come to the floor Wednesday, but Murphy’s filibuster stalled action on that and other legislative measures.
Around noon, Sen. Cory Booker took the floor to stress the need for such measures, particularly in light of Sunday’s shooting at a nightclub in Orlando, Florida, that left 49 people dead and 53 injured.
The New Jersey Democrat recounted the numbers of people killed in mass shootings in recent years. And he said terrorist attacks are increasingly being committed with guns, not bombs.
“We are hear to say, enough,” Booker said. “I’ve cleared my entire day … so I can stay on this floor and assist Sen. Murphy.”
Senate Minority Whip Richard J. Durbin of Illinois took a turn around 12:30 p.m., and Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson emerged around 1:30 to talk about the AR-15, the semi-automatic weapon used in the Orlando attack. New York Sen. Charles E. Schumer followed soon after to talk about efforts to work with Republicans on compromise legislation.
“On our side of the aisle, we are willing to compromise,” Schumer said, but added that Democrats could not accept a “meaningless compromise” that would not close loopholes in gun laws.
Sen. Joe Manchin III, a West Virginia Democrat, rose to talk about the gun culture in his rural state. He said responsible gun owners know not to sell to strangers or to criminals. Maryland Democrat Benjamin L. Cardin appeared on the floor at 2 p.m., followed by Massachusetts’ Edward J. Markey, Vermont’s Patrick J. Leahy and Minnesota’s Al Franken.
One Republican senator, Nebraska’s Sen. Ben Sasse, rose to ask questions about the terror watch list that could be affected by proposed legislation. All told, 35 senators asked questions during the filibuster that was expected to stretch until midnight.
At one point during the filibuster two House Democrats from Connecticut, Joe Courtney and Jim Himes, sat in the Senate chamber to support their colleague.
“It’s a small family but we like to support each other,” Himes said of the delegation. “And obliviously it was a family that was very, very badly hurt at Sandy Hook Elementary School.”
Connecticut Democratic Rep. Elizabeth Esty brought him lunch : a can of the Red Bull energy drink, an apple, hot dogs, Doritos, Powerade and Mountain Dew. She also had deodorant “in case it goes really long.”
Unfortunately, by precedent, senators cannot eat or drink anything but milk or water during a filibuster. They can’t sit down either.
About 8:30 p.m., Murphy noticed his young son, Owen, watching from the gallery.
“I actually didn’t know this was going to occur,” Murphy said, “my oldest little boy just showed up in the gallery. A) you’re supposed to be in bed. B) I’m sorry that I missed pizza night. And C) I hope that you’ll understand someday why we’re doing this, why we have been standing here for eight hours.
“Why sometimes even if you don’t get everything that you want, trying hard — trying and trying and trying to do the right thing is ultimately just as important as getting the outcome in the end. So, go to bed.”
Murphy’s office said the Connecticut senator has taken to the floor 45 times since January 2013 to give “Voices of Victims” speeches highlighting victims of gun violence.
In addition to the filibuster, Senate Democrats announced Wednesday they will push for funding that would allow the FBI to add nearly 400 new positions to fight terrorism in the wake of the deadly attack in Orlando.
Feinstein and Cornyn were the authors of two proposals that received floor votes in December. Neither measure achieved the 60 votes needed to advance.
The White House indicated it would not support any gun control legislation that would place wait times on gun purchases when the would-be buyer is also on the no-fly list. Instead, President Barack Obama wants an outright prohibition on listed individuals being able to legally buy firearms, Press Secretary Josh Earnest said.
While the White House is not ready to endorse — or state its opposition to — Feinstein’s version of the measure, Earnest said the Californian is focusing on the right issues.
Asked about the background check issue, Cornyn said, “They’re not proposing anything that would have stopped San Bernardino or Orlando. I think we ought to be looking at ways to do that. That’s a lot more productive.”