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After Murphy-led filibuster, Democrats expect vote on gun control Monday

By Russell Blair, The Hartford Courant

U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, groggy from a near 15-hour Senate filibuster that attracted national attention, said Thursday he had a promise from Republican leaders that a vote will be held on two gun control measures: expanding background checks and barring people on terror watch lists from purchasing guns.

The vote is expected to take place Monday. But the prospects of the amendments passing in the Republican-controlled Senate, particularly in an election year, remain dim.

“I think we made a difference,” said Murphy, D-Conn. “This was a classic filibuster; this wasn’t a stunt, this wasn’t a prearranged showcase, this was an effort to shut down the Senate until we got an agreement. In that respect we succeeded.”

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The filibuster, which ground the Senate to a halt on a day when members were scheduled to take up an appropriations bill that included funding for the FBI, the Justice Department and other agencies, quickly became the political story of the day, capturing national attention on news websites and social media.

Murphy said his body “held up pretty well” during the 14 hours and 50 minutes that he was required to remain standing without leaving the chamber and without eating, “but it was very nice to sit down and rest my legs.”

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a fellow Connecticut Democrat who joined Murphy for almost the entirety of the filibuster, said Democrats “were prepared to go whatever the distance might be.” The filibuster was the eighth longest in the Senate since 1900.

After a few hours of sleep, Murphy was up early Thursday doing the morning talk show circuit, and then it was off to his son’s school for an end-of-year celebration.

“I had to be in my son’s classroom at 8:30 a.m. and I was excited to be there,” he said.

Later in the morning, Murphy, Blumenthal and Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey were joined at a news conference with family members of victims of mass shootings. They turned up the pressure on Republicans and challenged them to vote against proposals they said had widespread support in national polls.

“We’ll see if Republican members can vote with the NRA, vote against 90 percent of their constituents who want terrorists to be kept from buying guns and return home, look the victims of gun violence and the people who care about this issue deeply in the eye and tell them they’ve done their job,” Murphy said.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., who have pushed for gun control legislation for years, heaped praise on Murphy, Blumenthal and Booker.

“I just can’t tell you how strongly I feel about being able to stand with this group of senators, particularly our Young Turks who are willing to go down there … and spend 15 hours on the floor of the United States Senate,” Feinstein said.

Schumer said his colleagues “took the anguish of America and turned it into a spotlight that is now focused on the Senate.

“And every senator is now going to have to say whether they’re for terrorists getting guns or against terrorists getting guns,” he said.

Gun rights groups questioned how effective the two proposals would be. Scott Wilson, president of the Connecticut Citizens Defense League, said the watch list proposal violated due process rights, and criminals would find a way to avoid background checks.

“We realize it’s a tough job, but our leaders, our elected officials must also understand that none of this is going to deter a terrorist from getting any type of weapon, or making one, if that’s what they wish,” he said.

Wilson said lawmakers would be better off talking about legislation regarding so-called “gun-free zones” — schools, malls and other public places where firearms can’t be carried — which he called “targets of opportunity” for attackers.

More than 10,000 calls of support poured into Murphy’s office during the filibuster, which ended at 2:11 Thursday morning. He said he was in contact with some of the Sandy Hook families during the filibuster, and he used the story of one of the 20 first-graders killed in the 2012 massacre in his closing remarks. Dylan Hockley, Murphy said, died in the arms of Anne Marie Murphy, the special education aide he loved dearly. Since the shooting at the Newtown elementary school, Murphy has positioned himself as a leading advocate for stricter gun laws.

“I wake up every day thinking about those little kids,” he said. “I’m never going to stop fighting.”

(c)2016 The Hartford Courant (Hartford, Conn.)

Visit The Hartford Courant (Hartford, Conn.) at www.courant.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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