They can’t pass it if they can’t vote on it.
Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul’s threat to filibuster any new gun restrictions is gathering steam, as a dozen of his Republican colleagues have now signed onto his plan.
The Kentucky Republican and Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) first wrote to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid late last month to warn him of their intention to try to tie up the Senate if, as planned, Reid moved forward with legislation that would expand background checks and attempt to crack down on interstate gun trafficking.
Reid is expected to bring a gun-control bill to the floor as early as next week, or perhaps the following week, and Paul is renewing his vow to try to block the measure. Paul’s follow-up letter, obtained by POLITICO, bears Monday’s date and is signed by 13 Republicans, including fellow potential 2016 presidential aspirant Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) — who signed on shortly after Paul’s first threat was issued — and National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman Jerry Moran of Kansas.
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While Paul gained a new measure of fame among libertarian-minded voters on the right and left during a recent filibuster sparked by the administration’s policy of targeted drone strikes, Reid has an ace in the hole. A new Senate rule would allow him to circumvent a filibuster on the motion to proceed to the gun bill by promising each party two amendments on the legislation. Under that scenario, Paul and his allies would still get a chance to raise their objections on the floor for hours on end, but they couldn’t stop the Senate from starting debate on the bill.
Reid’s aides have discussed that option, but they haven’t yet said that they’ll use it. Reid may be able to break a filibuster with bipartisan support, which would obviate the need to do an end run around Paul’s group. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) has said he won’t support a filibuster if Reid promises to allow for amendments on the floor.
At the moment, Reid doesn’t have enough GOP support to break a filibuster. But as the filibuster went on — and on — he might be able to peel off another 2 or 3 Republicans to vote for cloture.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean that a gun control bill would pass the Senate. Reid isn’t at 50 votes yet and will probably delay proceeding until he gets there. Until then, the GOP is getting organized for a knock down fight on gun control that promises to go down to the wire.