Updated at 4:45 p.m. ET
At a gathering of the nation’s top law enforcement officers on Tuesday afternoon, Attorney General Eric Holder and Vice President Joe Biden pushed Congress to act on the gun safety recommendations put forth by their task force, which was formed following the mass shooting this past December at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT.
Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill, more than a half-dozen Republican senators announced their opposition to a gun reform filibuster threat, allowing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) to schedule a vote to proceed this Thursday.
Biden said he hosted 13 Newtown family members for breakfast at his home on Tuesday morning, saying he wished members of Congress could have listened to the discussion. He said one woman whose little girl was hiding in the bathroom and was shot through the heart asked Biden how members of Congress can explain not doing anything.
“Don’t they understand? They’re talking about filibustering. What are they doing?” said Biden. “Why don’t people up there understand this? What has to happen to break through the consciousness of people up on the Hill? The public is so far beyond where the Congress is, so far ahead of the way they’re talking.”
At one point, Biden held up a piece of paper showing how easy it is to conduct a background check and dispelling the misinformation perpetuated by the NRA. The gun lobby group and others trying to stop any action “are in a time warp,” he said, and the nation has moved ahead on this issue.
On Monday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) joined 13 other Republican senators planning to filibuster gun reform legislation at the same time President Obama was in Connecticut making an emotional plea for stronger gun laws. In calling out the politicians prepared to block legislation from being debated on the Senate floor, the president told the crowd, “They’re saying your opinion doesn’t matter, and that’s not right” as the audience booed and then stood up and chanted “We want a vote!”
While McConnell joins the far-right fringe of his party on gun safety legislation, a pro-Democratic SuperPAC on Tuesday unveiled an online campaign calling the senator — who is up for re-election in 2014 — “Washington’s top roadblock” who is “deep in hock to extreme special interests.”
CBS News reported on Tuesday that all 14 Republican senators who plan to filibuster denied requests for interviews with the network. However, the news outlet did secure an interview with Georgia Republican senator Johnny Isakson, who said he will not join the filibuster and that gun safety legislation deserves a “vote up or down.” Georgia’s other Republican senator, Saxby Chambliss, on Tuesday also said he opposes a filibuster, saying “I don’t think I’m going to support that. I just don’t think it’s the right thing to do.”
On Face the Nation last Sunday, John McCain (R-AZ) blasted the filibuster threat, saying “I don’t understand it. The purpose of the United States Senate is to debate and to vote and to let the people know where we stand.” The six other Republican senators saying they will not join the filibuster are Lindsey Graham (SC), Tom Coburn (OK), Mark Kirk (IL), Kelly Ayotte (NH), and Susan Collins (ME), which means the Democrats have enough votes to proceed. Also, Jeff Flake (AZ) appears to be leaning towards not joining the filibuster.
In a last-ditch bipartisan effort to move the Senate forward on gun reform legislation, Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Pat Toomey (R-PA) are working on a compromise universal background checks bill, which 9 out of 10 Americans support. New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Mayors Against Illegal Guns group — which announced a new A-to-F grading system for members of Congress similar to the NRA’s scorecard — is running ads in Pennsylvania supporting Toomey’s stance on expanding federal background checks to all gun sales.
Also on Tuesday, Reid took to the Senate floor to give an emotional speech urging his colleagues to vote on tougher gun laws, citing his own father’s suicide. “In Nevada, if you purchase a handgun you have to wait three days to pick it up. And it’s believed that alone has saved the lives of many people. Sometimes people in a fit of passion will purchase a handgun to do bad things with it, Mr. President, even as my dad did, killed himself. Waiting a few days helps.”
Said Biden: “Now it’s time for every man and woman in the Senate to stand up and say yay or nay, I’m for or against. It’s time for them to say what they think. What should or should not be done to diminish the possibility of another Sandy Hook or reduce the number of dead over the next 113 days below 3,300.”
“We are going to win this fight. This is not going away. The American public will not stand for it.”
The full event can be seen here.