Prior to the votes, Senate leaders had agreed that a 60-vote majority would be necessary for approval of the various proposals. They did this to head off a threatened filibuster led by Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas).
For one of the few times this year, Vice President Joe Biden even returned to the Senate to preside over the voting. The gesture was purely symbolic, since there wasn’t a snowball’s chance that he’d get to exercise his constitutional prerogative to cast the deciding vote in case of a tie. He was there to gloat in victory; instead, he looked like he had been sucking on lemons when he had to announce the agony of defeat.
Gun control advocates had pulled out all of the stops to get passage, including numerous appearances by relatives of the victims from the schoolhouse slayings in Newtown, Conn., and Tucson, Ariz. President Barack Obama had flown many of them to Washington on board Air Force One so they could lobby lawmakers, appear with him in a photo op in the Rose Garden and pack the Senate galleries. (One violated Senate protocol, and demonstrated very bad manners, by shouting “Shame on you!” after the vote.)
The first vote was taken on the measure gun-control advocates were most confidant of getting passed: expanding background checks to include the private sale or transfer of firearms. This was the highly publicized “compromise” measure put together by Senators Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.).
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