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Senate Dem Vows to Hold Floor Until Parties Agree on 2 Gun-Control Bills

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) holds the floor to push for gun-control measures on June 15, 2016. (Senate Television via AP)

WASHINGTON — At least two Senate Republicans joined a filibuster-style effort launched today by Democrats calling for votes on gun-control bills after the Orlando terrorist attack.

Sen. Chris Murphy’s (D-Conn.) office said the gun-control advocate would “continue to hold the floor of the U.S. Senate until Republicans are willing to work with Democrats to take meaningful action to pass commonsense gun reform laws that will keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people and make our communities safer.”

Murphy began talking at 11:20 a.m. EST. The Dems are blocking amendments to the Commerce, Science, Justice, and Related Agencies appropriations bill.

Republicans were letting Dems run with the effort, as there are no pressing votes on the spending bill pending.

That means Murphy’s effort misses one of the requirements to be an actual filibuster: a procedure used to stop a bill from passing.

“But this is a different moment today than it was at the end of last week. There is a newfound imperative for this body to find a way to come together and take action, to try to do our part to stem this epidemic of gun violence, and in particular this epidemic of mass shootings that plagues this nation and no other industrialized nation in the world,” said Murphy, who unsuccessfully pushed new gun-control measures after the Sandy Hook massacre in his home state.

“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,” the senator continued in his opening remarks.

Murphy said the Senate shouldn’t proceed with debate on amendments to the appropriations bill “until we have figured out a way to come together on, at the very least, two simple ideas that enjoy the support of 80 percent to 90 percent of Americans.”

“Two ideas, two pieces of legislation that would have been potentially impactful with respect to the case in Orlando. That is one piece of legislation that Senator Feinstein has introduced that would simply say that if you are on a terror watch list, that you shouldn’t be able to buy a weapon. Second, in order to make that protection meaningful, you also need to make sure that whenever a would-be shooter buys a gun, he goes through a background check,” he said.

“By acting, by coming together and finding a way to act on these two noncontroversial measures, I think we also send an important signal to the American public and to would-be murderers that we’re serious about stemming this epidemic.”

Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), the former Club for Growth president who unsuccessfully tried to pass a bipartisan background check compromise with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) in 2013, joined Murphy.

“Let’s get to work here,” Toomey implored his colleagues. “Let’s sit down together and let’s figure out how we can achieve this. Because I think everybody ought to be in agreement in principle.”

“We don’t want terrorists to be able to walk into a gun store and buy a gun, and we don’t want innocent, law-abiding citizens to be denied Second Amendment rights because he’s wrongly on the list with a bunch of terrorists,” he said.

Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) stepped up to ask Murphy a question.

“Explain to me what the ‘terrorist watchlist’ is. I’m familiar with the terrorist screening database. There are a series of lists that fall from the database. But I don’t think there’s any such thing as ‘the terrorist watchlist,'” Sasse asked.

Murphy replied that he wants to arrive at agreement on “a consolidated database that’s maintained by federal law enforcement” with “a very explicit right to get off that list.”

“I don’t think that’s impossible,” the Connecticut Dem added.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) has not participated, but is separately negotiating with Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) on a way to keep guns out of the hands of people suspected of terror links without violating Second Amendment rights.

Democrats backing up Murphy on the floor have included Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.).