The Senate convened today at 4:00PM. Senate Chaplain Barry Black’s commemoration of the victims of the Orlando terror attack on Sunday in the opening prayer set the tone for the opening statements from the party leaders.
Mitch McConnell, R-KY, asked for the Senate to observe a moment of silence and addressed the people of Orlando, saying “You are not alone, your nation is here with you.”
Mr. McConnell also spoke a few words on his former colleague, ex-Senator George V. Voinovich, who died in his sleep yesterday evening at the age of 79.
The majority leader cited Voinovich’s enthusiastic promotion of NATO expansion in Eastern Europe among the former Senator’s missions, and called him “honest, plainspoken, loyal, [and] frugal.”
“The people of Cleveland, the state of Ohio, and the United States have lost an outstanding public servant,” Mr. McConnell finished before yielding the floor to the minority leader.
Harry Reid, D-NV, began by paying tribute to the late Mr. Voinovich too, commending him on his years as the Republican Senator from Ohio(1999-2011), and on his dynamic and varied career in politics, from his years as Ohio Assistant Attorney General, Mayor of Cleveland, and his time spent in the Ohio House of Representatives.
Mr. Reid characterized Mr. Voinovich’s Senate career as a bipartisan one, highlighting his heterodox votes against Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, and an amenability to support background checks across the aisle.
The Democratic leader used this as a launching off point for another push to enact gun reform in the Senate. Mr. Reid reported that he had had a long conversation with the FBI this morning, and described himself as “heartsick, I’m basically sick by our inaction,” in response to what he called the worst mass shooting in American history.
“Congress is failing to do anything to address mass shootings,” said Mr. Reid, as he called for action to be taken on limiting the size of magazines.
“We can no longer ignore the will of the American people.”
Mr. Reid cited polls showing 90% of Americans favoring expanded backgrounds checks, and 80% of Americans wanting to close the so-called terror loopholes as evidence of the Senate’s unresponsiveness on the issue.
Closing these loopholes has been championed by Democratic lawmakers since the San Bernardino attack last December. Opponents of the loopholes say that law enforcement is prevented from prohibiting the sale of guns to those designated as potential terrorists.
“The NRA is bad, really bad,” said Mr. Reid.
“There’s no excuse for allowing suspected terrorists to buy guns.”
–by Marlon J. Ettinger