At 11:21 a.m. Wednesday, Sen. Christopher S. Murphy did what he had done 45 times before: stood at his desk on the Senate floor and began to talk about gun violence.
But this time was different. This time, he didn’t leave for nearly 15 hours and only after he secured a commitment from Senate leaders to vote on two gun-control proposals he and other Democrats have championed.
Murphy said he anticipates there will be Republican alternatives to the amendments, and did not say whether the votes will occur Thursday or next week.
“This exercise has been in many ways a plea for this body to come together and find answers,” Murphy said not long before yielding the floor.
The Connecticut Democrat said worst mass shooting in U.S. history on Sunday at an Orlando nightclub was “the breaking point.”
Murphy and his fellow Democrats had decided “that we couldn’t proceed with business as usual in the Senate this week. That we couldn’t do what we’ve largely done mass shooting after mass shooting.”
Murphy was one of the first and most forceful senators to weigh in hours after the massacre in Orlando claimed 49 lives . As law enforcement was investigating the shooting, Murphy took note that the shooter packed two guns.
Murphy said Congress was “complicit” in those murders because of its inaction to combat gun violence.
“I’m going to remain on this floor until we get some signal, some sign … that we can get a path forward on addressing this epidemic in a meaningful bipartisan way,” Murphy said.
With two folders in front of him and a glass of water on his desk, Murphy started to talk.
Democrat after Democrat then took to the Senate floor to ask him lengthy questions, giving him a rest from speaking, though not from standing. The effort was organized, with 40 Democrats ready to take turns late into the night. His fellow Connecticut Democrat Richard Blumenthal frequently spelled Murphy.
Some speakers brought props: Florida Sen. Bill Nelson displayed a picture of the AR-15, the semiautomatic rifle used in both the Orlando shooting and the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Murphy’s home state. Wisconsin’s Tammy Baldwin brought a montage of the Orlando victims’ photos.
Tourists listened intently in the gallery above the floor, catching a glimpse of a legislative maneuver made famous in the movie “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.” The gallery was more crowded than usual, thanks to a few dozen Capitol Hill interns who came by to see the speeches.
It’s been three years since the last true Senate “talking filibuster,” in which lengthy speeches actually delay Senate business. In 2013, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., spoke on the floor for nearly 13 hours to delay the CIA director’s nomination .
Paul said after that filibuster that next time he’d wear comfortable shoes. Murphy wasn’t sporting any comfortable footwear Wednesday.
He might have gotten some relief from Rep. Elizabeth Esty, D-Conn., who brought him a care package that included shoe cushions. Murphy could not enjoy the rest of the goodies she brought — an apple, Doritos, hot dogs and several canned drinks. He was not allowed to eat or drink anything but water and milk while on the floor.
Esty’s district includes Newtown, where the Sandy Hook shooting claimed the lives of 20 children and six adults one month before Murphy was sworn into the Senate.
Esty, who holds Murphy’s former House seat, has also been pushing for gun-control measures, and tried and failed to force a vote on the House floor Wednesday to ban those on the terrorist watch list from buying guns. Esty and several House Democrats walked over to the Senate in the afternoon to show their support for Murphy.
The Connecticut delegation has been particularly forceful in its call for action after the Orlando shooting, with frustrations reaching a boiling point after struggling for years to explain inaction following the Newtown tragedy.
“It won’t surprise you to know that for those of us who represent Connecticut, the failure of this body to do anything – anything – at all in the face of that continued slaughter isn’t just painful to us. It’s unconscionable,” Murphy said.
“I can’t tell you how hard it is to look into the eyes of the families of those little boys and girls who were killed in Sandy Hook,” Murphy continued, “and tell them that almost four years later we’ve done nothing, nothing at all to reduce the likelihood that that will happen again to another family.”
Well into the evening, Murphy looked up into the Senate gallery to see his own son, Owen, watching him speak.
“I actually didn’t know this was going to occur, 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.”
As the filibuster reached its 12th hour, demonstrators began gathering outside the Capitol to support the effort on the Senate floor.
“We’re here, we’re queer. Get these guns out of here” chanted the group, many of whom marched from Dupont Circle after a vigil for the victims gunned down early Sunday morning in the gay nightclub in Orlando.
Murphy said his office received 10,000 calls on Wednesday offering support for his efforts to highlight the issue and “find a path forward.”
Democrats believed the marathons speeches could spur some action, with Murphy calling on the Senate to address the terrorist watch list issue as well as expanded background checks for gun purchases.
“We’ve harangued about it, we have cajoled, we have argued,” Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., said in a brief interview. “And it’s time that we put our foot down and say, ‘We’ve got to vote on this.”
But Republicans were skeptical that it would make any difference.
Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, said lawmakers were already negotiating terror watch list bills.
Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, R-Utah, said, “It’s all show. They’ve done it time after time, and it doesn’t do a doggone bit of good.”
Niels Lesniewski contributed to this report.