Congress

Senate Democrats prepare marathon floor session on gun violence

Late night is expected as 22 senators are prepared to call for legislation

Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., will lead nearly two dozen senators in a marathon of floor speeches on gun violence Tuesday night. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Nearly two dozen Senate Democrats plan to make it a late night on Tuesday, speaking out on the Senate floor about the impact of gun violence and legislative proposals Congress could explore.

The speeches are expected to begin around 5:30 p.m. and run late. Connecticut Democrat Christopher S. Murphy is leading the effort, spurred by mass shootings in Texas and Ohio during the August recess and the lack of clear response from the White House on what, if any, gun control measures they could agree to.

Murphy, along with fellow Democrat Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Pennsylvania Republican Pat Toomey, have been negotiating with the White House to expand background checks for firearm purchases. After speaking on the phone with President Donald Trump last week, the trio suggested the president would make known what kind of deal he could support within days.

[Trump closes in on background check decision, key senators say]

That timeline has come and gone without action from the White House and a deal has yet to come together. Manchin and Toomey led an effort in 2013, which would have required background checks on all commercial sales of guns. It fell five votes short in the Senate. Manchin is not one of the Senate Democrats expected to speak on the issue Tuesday night. 

House leadership and Senate Democrats have pushed for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, to hold a vote on two House-passed universal background check bills, but the Kentucky Republican has deferred to Trump.

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer and Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke with the president on Sunday and told him that any deal he supports must include the House-passed universal background checks legislation. They slammed McConnell in a statement following the call.

“McConnell has refused to give these bipartisan bills a vote on the Senate Floor, again and again putting his own political survival before the survival of our children,” said Schumer and Pelosi.

Senate Republicans have been wary of supporting almost anything without knowing where the president stands. The volatility of the president’s position and his strategy of hitting back, hard, when Republicans take stances that oppose his also has been a challenge in finding compromise among lawmakers.

Tuesday’s stand is the latest in a series of efforts Murphy has led on gun control in the Senate. He has been a leading advocate for stricter gun control laws since the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting in his state in 2012.

In June 2016, Murphy began a floor speech about gun violence around 11:20 a.m. and didn’t stop speaking for nearly 15 hours, until he secured a commitment from Senate leaders that a vote would be held on certain legislation. He’s given scores of shorter speeches over the years on the topic. Tonight he’ll have backup from some of his Democratic colleagues.

Here are the senators expected to speak Tuesday night on the Senate floor about gun violence:

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