Gun Control Debate 2013: Meet the GOP Senators Opposed to a Gun Control Filibuster


The NRA tries to pretend they do not exist. Senators Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas) would certainly like them to go away and stop talking. But it is an undeniable fact that there are members of both Republican legislative caucuses that want to have a debate on the various gun control proposals that President Obama wants to pass in the wake of the Aurora, Colorado, and Newtown, Connecticut, tragedies.

The current Republican Party strategy on gun control is to prevent it from even coming to the floor for debate. Thirteen senators, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz have pledged to filibuster any gun control proposal that comes to the floor. However there are a number of Republicans who have taken the opposite track, wanting at least a debate and an up or down vote on gun control measures

In the Senate, one such Republican is current senator and former presidential candidate John McCain (R-Ariz.) On Sunday McCain said on ABC’s Face the Nation:

"I don’t understand it [filibuster threats]. The purpose of the United States Senate is to debate and to vote and to let the people know where you stand. What are we afraid of?"

McCain appeared with Senator Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) on the program and said he would welcome on debate on guns control measure such as background checks.

Another person supportive of bringing gun control measure forward for debate is Senator Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.). Wednesday morning on CBS's This Morning, Isakson said that "I think it deserves a vote up or down." Perhaps to blunt the inevitable NRA offensive, Isaksons spokeswoman, Joan Kirchner mentioned the Second Amendment twice in her statement on the Senator’s remarks. "He has decided that a floor debate presents the best opportunity for supporters of the Second Amendment to offer and vote for amendments that will strengthen and protect the Second Amendment rights of Americans."

In the House of Representative the bombastic Peter King (R-N.Y.) had some choice words for the Republican block of senators planning to filibuster any gun control bill. Speaking on CNN, King said:

"I would say it’s wrong. I would say let this come to a debate … Even if it doesn't go down the way I want it to, I think the American people are entitled to a debate. To me, to use Senate rules to block a debate on an issue of this importance is just wrong. It's not like something is trying to be snuck through here. This is something that warrants a full and open debate."

King is an oddity in his party, believing in universal background checks. But he said that even if he had a position like Marco Rubio's opposition to background checks, he would still not support a filibuster of all gun control bills. King further said:

"To stifle debate and cut it off almost makes it as if these senators are afraid of something. I don't know what they're afraid of. If they're so sure of their position, let it come to a debate."

Senator Pat Toomey (D-Pa.), the fourth most conservative member of the Senate according to the National Journal, is another not opposed to the filibuster ... but in an entirely different way. He is working with Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) over a deal regarding universal background checks. Some suspect that Toomey, a conservative senator up for reelection in 2016 in a state that has not gone for the Republican Presidential candidate since 1988, is attempting to broaden his crossover appeal to Philadelphia urban and suburban voters supportive of gun control measure while protecting hunters and other rural constituents that make up his base in the final bill.

As President Obama gave a speech in Connecticut demanding a vote on gun control measures, a final showdown is coming forward in Congress over whether gun control will see the light of both chambers. The Republicans who want to debate gun control will either see their wish get granted or crushed under the boot of the filibuster.