Another epic filibuster is brewing

Senators Rand Paul (R-KY), Mike Lee (R-UT), and Ted Cruz (R-TX) wrote a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) on Tuesday that has been widely interpreted as a threat to filibuster gun control legislation, although they evidently don’t use that word.  Politico reports on the letter, and the situation surrounding it:

Reid plans to bring up a gun-control measure that focuses on broadening background checks and cracking down on interstate gun-trafficking after the current Senate recess.

Conservatives are concerned that once that bill reaches the floor, amendments could stiffen restrictions on gun control.

Moreover, they understand that Reid intends to allow liberal amendments that would limit clip capacity and ban certain assault weapons to be offered ??? even though they would be defeated ??? to give Democrats a chance to vote on them. For moderate Democrats in competitive states, that amounts to an opportunity to vote no and show allegiance to gun rights.

Fox News offers some excerpts from the letter:

“We, the undersigned, intend to oppose any legislation that 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,” the senators wrote in the letter, a copy of which was obtained by Fox News.

[…] “The Second Amendment to the Constitution protects citizens’ right to self-defense. It speaks to history’s lesson that government cannot be in all places at all times, and history’s warning about the oppression of a government that tries,” they wrote, concluding, “We will oppose the motion to proceed to any legislation that will serve as a vehicle for any additional gun restrictions.”

This sets the stage for another conflict between the young rising stars of the GOP and the old guard, led by Senator John McCain, who the Washington Times describes as a “key player” in the upcoming gun control vote… and he’s playing for Team Reid.  McCain has been holding closed-door negotiations that lead some conservatives to see a “concession on the horizon,” at least on the matter of expanded background checks for gun purchases.  It doesn’t seem like he would be likely to support a filibuster.  If it happens, he’ll find a lot of cameras and microphones pointed at him, hoping to catch another “wacko birds” sound bite critical of the young Republican upstarts.

In addition to McCain, Reid can also count New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg as a partner in his gun control push, since Bloomberg just launched a $12 million ad campaign designed to pressure senators from at least 10 states to support the legislation Reid will bring to the floor.  Bloomberg’s ads tell wavering senators that gun owners strongly support expanded background checks.  His organization, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, is also big on citing the fraudulent statistic that 40 percent of gun sales in the United States currently escape background checks.  (The actual figure is closer to 5 or 10 percent; the cooked “40 percent” number is based on a tiny Clinton-era survey that counted inheritances and gifts between family members as “sales.”)

The universal background check concept is popular with the public; a recent Quinnipiac poll showed 88 percent support in general, 85 percent among gun owners.  It remains to be seen what else will end up piggybacking on this popular initiative when it reaches the Senate floor.  The gun-control lobby simply cannot walk away from post-Newtown hysteria empty-handed, so something is going to pass.  A talking filibuster would give Paul, Lee, Cruz, and anyone who stands up to join them a chance to make the case for gun rights before a final package is assembled.  They will want to make the best of that opportunity.