Majority, Supermajority, Filibuster: How Gun Control Legislation Failed

| April 18, 2013

Yesterday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid tried to walk a tightrope. He failed.

Prior to beginning debate on the various amendments to the President’s gun control legislation, Reid asked for the Senate’s unanimous consent to require 60 votes for each of the nine amendments . Since no senators objected, that’s how high the rope was set.

Normally, amendments can be approved by simple majority, or just 51 votes.

But that process can open the floor to lengthly debate on each amendment, and would have also opened the door to gun rights advocates attempting add their own favored amendments and “poison pills” to the legislation.

One example would have been the Cornyn amendment that would have allowed gun owners who receive a state-issued conceal-carry weapons (CCW) permit to legally take and carry that weapon in other states, even if the other states had stronger gun legislation on the books.

So Reid was, in effect, trying to keep open the possibility that expanding background checks might make it into the bill, while at the same time trying to keep amendments that would have doomed the bill out of it.

He succeeded in the later, though the Concealed Carry amendment came close to passing at 57-43. Unfortunately, the Manchin-Toomey “compromise” universal background check legislation still failed to gather the number of votes needed to pass and replace the current version already in the bill.

And with the Senate minority ready and waiting to filibuster the stronger background check proposal in the existing bill, failure to obtain even 60 votes for the compromise version killed all hopes of obtaining the number of supermajority votes Reid would have needed to pass the legislation.

The following is a brief summary of each of the proposed amendments and the final vote total for each:

Background Checks – FAILED
No: 46, Yes: 54
A bipartisan proposal by Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Patrick J. Toomey (R-Pa.) to expand background checks to online sales and sales at gun shows.

Gun Trafficking – FAILED
No: 42, Yes: 58
A measure introduced by Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) that would crack down on gun trafficking and straw purchases.

Conceal Carry Permits – FAILED
No: 43, Yes: 57
A measure proposed by John Cornyn (R-Tex.) would require states to honor other states’ conceal-carry weapon permits.

Assault Weapons Ban – FAILED
No: 60, Yes: 40
A measure by Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) to renew a ban on assault weapons and limit high capacity magazines.

Veterans Gun Rights – FAILED
No: 44, Yes: 56
A measure sponsored by Richard Burr (R-N.C.) to expand gun rights for veterans and their families.

High Capacity Magazines – FAILED
No: 54, Yes: 46
A measure by Frank R. Lautenberg (D-N.J.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) to limit high-capacity magazine sizes.

Gun Owner Privacy – PASSED
No: 67, Yes: 30, Abstained: 3
A measure introduced by John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) to impose a penalty on states for releasing data on gun ownership.

Mental Health – PASSED
No: 2, Yes: 95, Abstained: 3
A measure by proposed by Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) to improve mental health and substance abuse programs.

If you want to know how your Senator voted for each amendment, see the following interactive chart at ProPublica: What Happened to the Gun Bill?

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