Thirteen Republican senators have pledged to filibuster a senate debate about new gun safety measures, insisting in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) that they will “oppose any legislation that would infringe on the American people’s constitutional right to bear arms, or their ability to exercise this right without being subjected to government surveillance.” The threat, which Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY), Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Mike Lee (R-UT) first made last week without seeing the bill, comes just days before the body prepares to consider the first comprehensive gun legislation in the aftermath of the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. The package will expand restrictions against gun trafficking, invest in school safety and provide for universal background checks of all gun purchases.
But one top Republican, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), is speaking out publicly against the group, questioning the wisdom of promising to filibuster legislation that lawmakers have yet to finalize:
After Mr. Coburn was asked multiple times an identically worded question about whether he would join Mr. Paul’s effort to block gun legislation as he traveled around Oklahoma in recent days, Mr. Coburn bristled at the idea that Mr. Paul would threaten to filibuster a bill before its contents were made final.
“Is that about filibustering a bill to protect the Second Amendment, or is that about Rand Paul?” Mr. Coburn said at a town-hall meeting at the Oklahoma Sports Museum in Guthrie, Okla., on Wednesday. “I’ve done more filibusters than Rand Paul is old,” Mr. Coburn said, but he added that he doesn’t announce such moves before he understands the bill.
Coburn is working on compromise legislation that would expand background checks to all gun purchases, but would not require private sellers to keep a record of the transaction, which gun safety advocates say would ensure that checks are being properly conducted and allow the entire chain of custody to be reconstructed in the event the gun is later recovered in a crime.
Should the Republicans proceed to filibuster on the motion to proceed to the gun package, Reid could take advantage of a new Senate rule “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,” Politico reports.