NRA Looking Increasingly Impotent As Gun-Control Bill Overcomes Filibuster

By
McCain led the charge against the filibuster.Photo: Win McNamee/2013 Getty Images

A couple of weeks ago, a filibuster movement started by a troika of young, ballsy Republican senators — Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and Mike Lee — looked like it might sink the Democrats' gun-control legislation without allowing it so much as a discussion on the Senate floor. Minority leader Mitch McConnell signed on, as did Marco Rubio and nine other GOP senators. But on Sunday, the momentum began to turn against the filibuster when John McCain spoke out against it on Face the Nation. And this morning, on a 68–31 vote —with 16 Republicans joining 52 Democrats (Mark Pryor and Mark Begich were the only dissenters) — the filibuster was defeated. 

Among those who voted against the filibuster were 21 senators, from both parties, who have received either an A+, A, or AQ rating from the NRA, according to Washington Post reporter Ed O'Keefe. Those cherished grades will not be affected by this morning's cloture vote. But the NRA warned today that how senators vote on the Manchin-Toomey (and Schumer-Kirk) background check proposal (which will be voted on as an amendment to the main bill), as well as the final cloture vote (which would allow an up-or-down vote on the bill's final passage) will be included in their scores. 

It's unclear, as of now, how many senators who voted this morning to allow debate on the bill will ultimately vote to actually pass the bill. For a lot of them, that decision will depend on the finer details of the bill and how it's amended between now and then. But 21 NRA-approved senators decided this morning that they care more about strengthening the nation's gun laws than the threats of the gun lobby. There was a time not so long ago when that would have been unthinkable.