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The last time he led a filibuster, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., carried out the people’s business for 13 straight hours – until he realized he had some personal business to take care of.
“I’ve discovered there are some limits to filibustering and I’m going to have to go take care of one of those in a few minutes here.,” he said, wrapping up his marathon protest of the Obama administration’s answer to his question about their drone program.
The Kentucky Republican is again planning to make his point with a filibuster: he’ll protest the gun violence legislation introduced by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., which is expected to come up next month.
The legislation expands the scope of background checks and tightens restrictions on gun trafficking, two objectives of legislation considered by the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this month. It does not include a ban on assault weapons and gun magazines of a certain size – which some gun control proponents support but many Republicans oppose – though Reid will allow senators to propose amendments to his measure.
A letter from Paul to Reid obtained by CNN and other news outlets announced that he and Sens. Mike Lee of Utah and Ted Cruz of Texas would filibuster any legislation that "would infringe on the American people's constitutional right to bear arms, or on their ability to exercise this right without being subjected to government surveillance."
On “The Lead with Jake Tapper” on Tuesday, Kristin Roberts of National Journal said the trio “will always take an opportunity to take a stand on the floor. ”
“These are guys who are about making their point whether it’s in line with the polling, whether it’s in line with leadership - they want to get on the floor, put themselves on the record,” she said. “They know that if this bill gets through the Senate it’s not going anywhere in the House but that’s not what it’s all about. For them it’s about getting out there and saying, yea, this might be a base bill, this might be something watered down, but we’re not going to let you attach amendments that we find distasteful.”
Ben LaBolt, a Democrat and President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign press secretary, said the move is not smart politically.
The public opinion on background checks remained stagnant for a decade, he said, but has become more popular of late.
“You have a Republican senator talking about filibustering that? I’ll tell you, I read through that Republican autopsy report on how to rebrand the party, to make it no longer the party of ‘no’ and this certainly isn’t the route to do that,” he said, referring to the plan commissioned by Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus.
The latest CNN poll conducted earlier this month found that support for major legislation on guns (or making all guns illegal) had slipped nearly ten points since December, from 53% to 43%.
Ross Douthat, a conservative columnist for The New York Times, said he doesn’t think the filibuster would hurt the GOP.
“I agree with Ben that the immediate optics of the filibuster on such a modest piece of legislation aren’t great for the GOP but I think overall, you’re looking at an issue where immediately after [the] Newtown [elementary school shooting] there was a sense that this had shifted the balance of power on the issue and the Democrats would be able to make gains and so on and that doesn’t seem to be the case,” he said.
With the two parties divided on the issue, Roberts said she thinks the National Rifle Association’s proposal – advanced by NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre a week after the Newtown shooting – may be the most effective piece of legislation which makes it through Congress.
“You remember Wayne LaPierre who came out in that press conference after Newtown, and he was ridiculed,” she said on “The Lead.”
“He was ridiculed roundly for saying that really the solution here is securing schools. In fact the only piece of this Senate bill that could probably get through both chambers right now is increased funding for security.”