The push for new gun safety legislation cleared a major hurdle Thursday, as the Senate voted to block a threatened Republican filibuster. Washington D.C. bureau reporter Michael Scotto filed the following report.
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Democrats won a major battle Thursday in the fight for new gun safety measures.
By a vote of 68 to 31, the Senate agreed to open debate on the most sweeping gun control legislation to come before Congress in 20 years.
"We're not accountable to special interest groups on either the right or the left," said Sen. Patrick Leahy, a Democrat from Vermont. "We're accountable to 314 million Americans."
Democrats were able to block a threatened GOP-led filibuster by picking up the votes of 16 Republicans after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid promised senators the chance to amend the bill.
"We're going to have an open amendment process, meaning senators are going to be able to offer amendments," Reid said. "One thing we can't do is have pending scores of amendments. We're not going to do that."
More than two dozen Republicans, led in part by Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn, wanted to avoid the amendment process altogether and derail the legislation through a filibuster.
"We need to make sure that what we do is address the cause of this violence, and to come up not with symbolic gestures that will have no impact, or to pass other laws that will not be enforced, but to come together with real solutions," Cornyn said.
The process is far from over. Senators will likely spend the next couple of weeks debating measures to expand background checks, as well as amendments with far less support, including an assault weapons ban.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg knows the political realities of gun control and is prepared to take what he can get.
"If you only got, and I hope we get more than the background check, but if that's what you got, it would be an enormous improvement in the safety for you and your children and your friends throughout this entire country," Bloomberg said.
Even if the final product makes it out of the Senate, it faces an uphill fight in the House.