Gun Control Debate: Republican Filibuster Gets McConnell As Ally

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U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ken.

A group of Republicans threatening to filibuster the Senate Democrats' gun control bill this week, has got a new ally -- and one of its strongest to date -- Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

While President Barack Obama was campaigning for gun control in Connecticut Monday evening, the Senate’s top Republican announced he will be joining the group of more than 12 senators who promised to filibuster gun control legislation Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., will soon introduce. Democrats will need 60 votes to overcome the possible filibuster.

Reid is hoping to pass a bill (S.649) that expands background checks, improves school safety and provides harsher punishment for straw purchasers. Last month, Reid suggested he wanted to see action on a gun control bill following the Senate’s recess.

“Sen. McConnell opposes the Reid bill,” McConnell’s spokesman Don Stewart wrote in an email to the International Business Times. “While nobody knows yet what Sen. Reid’s plan is for the gun bill, if he chooses to file cloture on the motion to proceed to the Reid bill, Sen. McConnell will oppose cloture on proceeding to that bill.”

The gun control filibuster began with Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky, Mike Lee of Utah and Ted Cruz of Texas. Citing the Second Amendment in a March 22 letter to Reid, the three senators warned they will block any Democrats’ attempt at imposing additional restrictions on gun ownership in America.

“The Second Amendment to the Constitution protects citizens’ right to self-defense,” the letter read. “It speaks to history’s lesson that government cannot be in all places at all times, and history’s warning about the oppression of a government that tries. We will oppose the motion to proceed to any legislation that will serve as a vehicle for any additional gun restrictions.”

Twenty-six people, including 20 children, were shot and killed at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., last December, reigniting the national gun control debate.

Both Obama and Reid have blasted Republicans for threatening a filibuster.

Obama has asked that Congress allow an up or down vote on the gun control measure being drafted, especially in light of a majority of Americans, including gun owners, showing support for universal background checks.

Earlier this week on the Senate floor, Reid said that every issue should get a vote.

“I am deeply troubled that a number of my Republican colleagues plan not only to oppose stricter gun violence laws, but to prevent the Senate from even voting on those measures,” Reid said. “There is simply no reason for this blatant obstruction except the fear of considering anti-violence proposals in full, public view. Yet now many Senate Republicans seem afraid to even engage in this debate. Shame on them.”

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