A bipartisan gun bill passed a key procedural hurdle in the Senate late Tuesday that clears the way for the chamber to take up the measure later this week as lawmakers scramble to ensure final passage before Congress leaves for a two-week recess.
The Senate voted 64-34 to advance the legislation – including 14 Republicans – after negotiators released the text of the 80-page bill on Tuesday, almost ensuring that Congress will enact its first substantial gun control legislation in decades.
Having the backing of 14 GOP senators makes it likely the measure will be able to overcome the 60-vote filibuster threshold required to pass legislation in the 50-50 divided Senate.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said he would tee up a vote this week.
Passage in the Democratic-controlled House would be needed before it goes to President Biden’s desk for his signature.
The mass shootings last month in a grocery store in Buffalo that killed 10 people and at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, killing 21, including 19 students, sparked national outrage over gun violence and spurred the bipartisan group of 10 lawmakers to act.
Democrats did not get the tougher restrictions they sought – there is no ban on assault rifles and it doesn’t raise the age of those who can legally buy semi-automatic weapons to 21 from 18.
The shooters in Buffalo and Uvalde were both 18 and used military-style assault weapons.
But the legislation, the most sweeping since Congress passed the assault weapons ban in 1994, provides financial incentives for states to create mental health programs and implement “red flag” laws, requires expanded background checks for gun buyers under 21, increases penalties for straw purchases of firearms, and closes the so-called “boyfriend loophole,” prohibiting romantic partners convicted of domestic violence and not married to their victims from getting firearms.
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), one of the strongest advocates for gun reform legislation in the Senate, heralded the deal hammered out with Republicans as the “the most significant piece of anti-gun-violence legislation Congress will have passed in 30 years.”
“This is a breakthrough,” Murphy said. “And more importantly, it is a bipartisan breakthrough.”
Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, the top Republican negotiator in the talks, acknowledged that it didn’t satisfy everyone.
“Some think it goes too far, others think it doesn’t go far enough. And I get it. It’s the nature of compromise,” Cornyn said.
“I believe that the same people who are telling us to do something are sending us a clear message, to do what we can to keep our children and communities safe. I’m confident this legislation moves us in a positive direction,” he added.
Further bolstering the legislation’s likelihood of winning approval, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell voiced his support, calling it “a commonsense package of popular steps that will help make these horrifying incidents less likely while fully upholding the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens.”
But the National Rifle Association, which had backed measures like reinforcing school security, said it would oppose the legislation.
“It falls short at every level. It does little to truly address violent crime while opening the door to unnecessary burdens on the exercise of Second Amendment freedom by law-abiding gun owners,” it said in a statement posted on Twitter.
With Post wires