WASHINGTON – The Senate crossed the first of many hurdles Thursday in the drive to pass new gun legislation, with a bipartisan vote to begin what could be weeks of debate on the issue.
By a 68-31 margin, senators moved to open formal consideration of a package of reforms to expand background checks, improve school safety and combat gun trafficking. Among Republicans, 16 voted yes, while two Democrats voted no and one did not vote.
Next week senators will be able to offer amendments that pose the real test of whether the larger bill will succeed. Both gun-rights advocates and supporters of even stricter gun control expect to offer additional proposals that would ban the sales of certain types of assault weapons ban or expand concealed-weapons permits.
The first amendment expected to come to a vote would be a compromise reached this week on background checks brokered by Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W. Va.) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) that was seen as increasing the likelihood that the larger package will pass.
All 23 of President Obama’s gun policy proposals
“The political landscape of America on gun safety is changing before our eyes,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said just moments before the vote at a news conference with family members of the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre who later watched the vote from the Senate gallery. “The political conventional wisdom four months ago was that nothing would be done. Today we prove that conventional wisdom wrong.”
But Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), a co-sponsor of that bill, warned Thursday of the possibility of “pernicious” amendments that would seek to undermine the bill. “It will be a struggle to get to 60 votes,” he said, referring to a filibuster-proof threshold that will again be required before a final vote.
Senate leadership aides warned that opponents of the legislation were prepared to use a number of other procedural tools to delay the process further.
FULL COVERAGE: Shootings at Connecticut school
Follow Politics Now on Twitter and Facebook