Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy led a group of his Democratic colleagues in a filibuster Wednesday morning in an attempt to force votes on two gun control measures in the wake of the Orlando shooting.
Murphy is seeking up and down votes on two bipartisan measures. One would ban those on the FBI’s terrorism watch list from purchasing firearms or explosives, a measure that might have prevented the weekend tragedy at a gay nightclub, the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history, as the shooter Omar Mateen, had been on the FBI watch list at one time. The second measure would close the so-called Charleston loophole in background checks, fully funding three-day background checks to ensure felons and drug users are not purchasing weapons. That bill would have prevented convicted drug user Dylann Roof from buying the gun he allegedly used to shoot nine people to death in a Charleston church a year ago Friday.
While both measures have enjoyed bipartisan support, the powerful gun lobby has succeeded in blocking votes and passage of both for years. On Monday, sponsor Rep. Peter King, a New York Republican, told TIME that despite the horrific event in Florida, he remained unhopeful that either could pass the lower chamber. The Senate filibuster could change that political calculus if enough momentum and outrage builds to pass the measures through the Senate.
Republican leaders, in response to a query on the filibuster, noted that Texas Sen. John Cornyn, the No. 2 Republican, is working on a GOP measure banning those on the terrorism watch list from buying weapons. And gun control groups have been working with Sen. Pat Toomey, a Pennsylvania Republican who led the failed bipartisan effort to pass gun control in the wake of the Newtown school shooting, to get some form of these provisions through.
“I’m going to remain on this floor until we get some signal, some sign that we can come together on these two measures, that we can get a path forward on addressing this epidemic in a meaningful, bipartisan way,” said Murphy, who has been a strong advocate of gun control after the Sandy Hook shooting left 20 children between the ages of 6 and 7 dead in 2012. “Newtown is still putting itself back together, probably will be for a long time and Orlando the same. And so our hearts break for what that community is going through.”
Democratic Senators Richard Blumenthal, a former Connecticut attorney general and Cory Booker, the former mayor of Newark, accompanied Murphy’s filibuster on the floor. Other Democrats, such as Illinois’ Dick Durbin, have also come to the floor to voice support, and more are expected throughout the day.
“I’ve cleared my entire day,” Booker said. “I’ve cleared my evening events … so that I can stay on this floor and support Sen. Murphy.”
The Senate had been debating a bill funding the Justice Department for fiscal 2017. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had not filed for cloture on that measure, limiting the number of hours of debate, which means Murphy and his crew could theoretically talk indefinitely.
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