Support to begin debate on a gun safety measure is growing in the Senate, with a number of GOP senators telling The Washington Examiner on Tuesday that they will not back a Republican-led filibuster.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has set a vote for Thursday, and it looks like there are enough votes to bring the legislation to the floor.
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said she won’t block debate even though she’s opposed to the bill’s provision on universal background checks.
Other GOP lawmakers who say they will vote to proceed on the bill include Sens. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Jeff Flake and John McCain of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, Mark Kirk of Illinois, Roy Blunt of Missouri and Johnny Isakson of Georgia.
That’s enough votes to reach the 60 needed to block a filibuster, while still allowing a couple of vulnerable red-state Democrats (Max Baucus of Montana and Mark Pryor of Arkansas) to vote “no.”
“I am not going to join in a filibuster against bringing the bill to the floor a long as there is ample opportunity for amendments,” Collins said Tuesday. “It is my understanding amendments will be allowed to the bill, which is very important since there are portions of the bill which I do not support.”
Collins and other Republicans (and a few red-state Democrats, too) are opposed to the background checks because they could require the federal government to create a gun registry.
That could provide a big sticking point when it comes time to find the 60 votes needed to cut off debate on the bill.
A solution is in the works, however.
Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Toomey are working on a new background-check provision that would carve out exceptions for close family members and hunters. The language may satisfy GOP lawmakers like Collins.
“I do feel strongly we cannot do anything that creates a national registry of gun owners,” Collins said. “But I do not believe the Manchin-Tooomey language would end in that result."