WASHINGTON — The Senate on Monday voted down four competing gun control proposals, allowing Democrats and Republicans to stake out political turf around a controversial, emotional issue that promises to play big in a campaign year.

The votes, which fell mostly along party lines, came as the debate over gun laws has been reinvigorated after the recent mass shootings at an Orlando, Florida, nightclub popular with the gay community.

Despite both parties presenting proposals to tighten certain aspects of gun laws, attempts to craft any compromise ran aground last week, leading to Monday’s series of votes that served as a way for both sides to send political messages.

Variations of all four proposals considered Monday had already failed to pass the Senate in December after the deadly mass shooting at the hands of Islamic State sympathizers in San Bernardino, California.

Democrats charged that Monday’s votes fit a pattern of Republicans giving in to the demands of the National Rifle Association after tragic shooting incidents despite polls showing support for stricter gun laws.

“Senate Republicans ought to be embarrassed, but they’re not, because the NRA is happy,” said Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.


Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., accused Democrats of pushing a “partisan agenda.”

In the week since the most recent mass shooting, both Democrats and Republicans have repeatedly stated that suspected terrorists should not be able to purchase guns. But there are substantive differences between the proposals offered by both sides – all of which required 60 votes to advance in the Senate.

The Senate voted 47 to 53 to reject a measure from Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., to let the attorney general deny firearms and explosives to any suspected terrorists. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota was the sole Democrat to vote against the measure, while Republican Sens. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and Mark Kirk of Illinois, both of whom face tough re-election contests, voted for it. Maine Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican, voted against the bill and independent Sen. Angus King voted for it.

“There are some things that are just common sense – and trying to prevent terrorists from buying weapons is one of them,” King said in an emailed statement. “I am hopeful that we can keep working on this issue to find a solution that will protect the American people while still respecting Second Amendment rights.”

The Senate, on a 53 to 47 vote, also rejected a Republican alternative from Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, that would allow authorities to delay a gun sale to a terrorism suspect for three days or longer if a judge ruled during that time that there is probable cause to deny the firearm outright.

Two Democrats, Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Joe Donnelly of Indiana, backed the measure. But three Republicans – Sens. Jeff Flake of Arizona, Kirk and Collins voted against it, as did King.


Both provisions contained language to alert authorities if anyone who has been on a terror watch list in the past five years tries to buy a gun. Such a provision might not have prevented the Orlando shooter from buying the weapons he used in the nightclub massacre, but it would have let authorities know when he purchased the firearms.

Republicans argued that Feinstein’s proposal doesn’t do enough to protect against situations where someone mistakenly on a terror watch list, or mistakenly suspected of links to terror groups, would be denied their Second Amendment rights.

Democrats countered that the time limitations in Cornyn’s alternative would make it functionally impossible to actually prevent suspicious individuals from purchasing firearms.

A handful of Republicans have also voiced their own criticism of Cornyn’s legislation. On Monday, Ayotte said she would support the procedural votes on both the Cornyn and Feinstein measures – not because she thought either posed a satisfactory solution, but “to get to this debate, because I want a result,” she said.

Ayotte was working with Collins over the last week to try to come up with a compromise proposal. That proposal would prevent people on two subsets of the FBI’s database of suspected terrorists – the “No Fly List” and the “Selectee List” – from buying guns and would alert the FBI if someone on those lists in the previous five years tried to purchase weapons.

Democrats said Collins’ proposal was too narrow and would allow too many potential terrorists to fall through the cracks.


“Her alternative is not enough to close the loophole that creates this terror gap,” Feinstein said Monday.

Collins expressed optimism that the Senate would vote on her plan, and Cornyn said that, according to McConnell, if Collins wants a vote on her proposal “she’ll get one,” The Associated Press reported.

The Senate also rejected, on a 44 to 56 vote, a measure from Sens. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., that would expand background checks for anyone trying to purchase a firearm, including at a gun show or online.

It was a more expansive version of a compromise measure from Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Pat Toomey, R-Pa., that sought to expand background checks in 2013 after the mass shooting at the Sandy Hook school in Newtown, Connecticut. Their proposal never gained the needed support. Collins voted against the measure and King voted for it.

Republicans objected to the breadth of the Murphy-Booker-Schumer proposal, which would require a background check for almost any sale or transfer of a firearm.

Instead, Republicans backed an alternative from Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, that would increase funding for the government to run background checks without expanding them. It failed on a 53 to 47 vote. Collins voted for the bill and King voted against it.

The Obama administration said Monday that it supported the Feinstein and Murphy-Booker-Schumer amendments.

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