Updated 1:01 p.m. | The bipartisan sportsmen’s bill appeared on the verge of collapse Wednesday.
As usual, the feud is about considering amendments. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., moved to block all amendments by filling the amendment tree and end debate, but said he was willing to consider a limited number.
“If you want an amendment process, bring me a reasonable list that leads to passage of the bill,” he said of the GOP.
Republicans have been calling for an open amendment process, and have proposed numerous gun amendments that threaten to turn the bill into a political minefield.
Senate Energy and Natural Resources ranking member Lisa Murkowski, the lead Republican compiling the package with Democrat Kay Hagan of North Carolina, gave an all-too-familiar floor speech about oft-mythical “regular order.”
The Alaska Republican conceded the Senate was “probably unlikely” to move forward on the bipartisan assortment of bills without considering an assortment of relevant amendments. Relevancy is a broader standard than germaneness, meaning any deal might well include a slew of uncomfortable gun votes.
“The Republican Conference is absolutely prepared to vote on all relevant amendments,” Murkowski said. “Let’s get moving on these relevant amendments.”
Murkowski noted that not all amendments are broad in scope.
“I know that Sen. [Mary L.] Landrieu has an amendment that’s very unique to Louisiana,” Murkowski said, citing a proposal from the Energy and Natural Resources chairwoman about deer hunting rights.
But it isn’t amendments such as Landrieu’s that are likely to cause trouble. There are firearm policy amendments being lined up on both sides. That includes everything from the interstate transportation of ammunition to a sweeping overhaul of gun control in the District of Columbia. That last amendment has been filed by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky.
On the other side, Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin wants to impose stiff criminal penalties for “straw purchasers” of firearms, citing the spate of violence last weekend in Chicago in a Wednesday morning floor speech. Other Democrats advocating firearm safety are working on proposals as well, including Sen. Christopher S. Murphy, D-Conn.
Durbin noted that his home state of Illinois has regions with very different views on firearm ownership.
“I think I may be an exception, but I welcome this debate. I want this debate. I want an opportunity to raise important issues about gun violence and gun safety in america,” Durbin said. “And I’m going to offer an amendment … which stiffens the penalties for those who purchase guns to give them to another person or sell them to another person to commit a crime.”
“What I said in Chicago, i’ll say on the floor of the Senate. Girlfriends, wake up. When that thug sends (you) to buy a gun, under this amendment, you … run the risk of spending 15 years of your life in a federal prison,” the Illinois Democrat said.
Durbin sounded a similar tone to Murkowski about the possibility the amendment process might not work, however.
“This senator is going to offer this amendment. I hope I get my chance,” Durbin said. “I hope the filibusters don’t stop me.”
It’s unclear where exactly such a filibuster might come from, but it could plausibly be from both sides of the aisle, given the political risks associated with opening the door to a broad gun safety debate.
Sarah Chacko contributed to this story.