What Sen. Murphy’s Filibuster Accomplished

This is a huge spotlight on the Senate’s response to Orlando.

Just before 2 am this morning, Sen. Chris Murphy ended his filibuster.

He realized his goal: the Senate will vote on the two issues he highlighted. Throughout the day yesterday, Murphy noted that there are many other things Democrats hope to do to curb gun violence. Closing the terror gap and universal background checks are the two things that have extremely broad-based support in the general public and therefore, should be a “no-brainer.” He repeatedly pointed out that they are only controversial in Congress.

During the time the filibuster was going on, there were negotiations taking place behind the scene on how to add terror suspects to the list of people who are banned from buying guns. Republicans (via the NRA) have repeatedly proposed unworkable processes to allow citizens to be removed from terrorist watch lists – like expecting the Attorney General to prove their case in court within 3 days. Republican Senator Pat Toomey worked with a gun control advocacy organization backed by former Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Senator Feinstein was in talks with Senator Cornyn. According to reports, both efforts failed to reach a compromise. As a result, the votes will be on proposals written by Democrats.

Other than forcing votes on these two issues, what Sen. Murphy’s filibuster accomplished was to shine a huge spotlight on the Senate’s response to the Orlando shootings. A lot more pressure will be brought to bear as they take up these measures. That will be especially true for Republican Senators running for re-election in blue/swing states, like Ron Johnson in Wisconsin, Mark Kirk in Illinois, Rob Portman in Ohio, Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania and Kelly Ayotte in New Hampshire.

It is worth noting that most of us have grown cynical – with good reason – about the possibility of passing even common sense gun safety measures like these. It is inconceivable that in a democratic republic, efforts that are generally backed by over 90% of voters are blocked by one party over and over again. And yet that is exactly what is happening. One response to that would be to simply remind everyone that it is hopeless and nothing will ever happen. But I was personally struck last night when Sen. Murphy addressed his son in the gallery. He said that he hoped his son would one day understand what he was doing and that fighting for something you believe in – no matter the immediate outcome – is always important.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.