At about 2:12 a.m. Thursday morning, Democratic Senator Chris Murphy ended an almost 15-hour filibuster after Majority Leader Mitch McConnell agreed to a vote on a gun-control bill that would stop individuals on the terror watch list and no-fly lists from being able to purchase guns. The bill would also cause those who buy guns through the internet and gun shows to be subject to background checks.
The Connecticut senator’s move began after 11 a.m. Wednesday morning. Filibuster rules required that the senator performing the filibuster must remain standing the entire time and typically does not allow him or her to take a bathroom break.
“I’m going to remain on this floor until we get some signal, some sign that we can come together,” Murphy said.
This determination to hold the Senate until getting an agreement on a vote makes this filibuster different, since the tactic is usually enacted to stall Senate action. But Murphy’s move stalled one action in order to instigate another.
About 40 others spoke during the filibuster, including one Republican senator who supported the bill and Republican Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska, who did not necessarily support the bill Murphy sought a vote on but who used the time to gain clarification about it.
Speakers that joined the filibuster spoke of other shootings, including the recent Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando that left nearly 50 dead.
“At least put your hand up for a vote that will begin, just begin the long journey to rectify a substantial national problem that takes 33,000 people every year,” said Democratic Senator Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, who spoke at about 12:30 a.m. Thursday. “All we’re asking for is a start.”
As the filibuster closed, Senator Murphy, whose state was the setting for the Sandy Hook shooting in 2012, expressed his frustration at the lack of action made by the Senate in the time since the shooting that left 20 children and six adults dead.
“I have been furious since those days following Sandy Hook,” he said. “I have been so angry that this Congress has mustered absolutely no response to mass shooting after mass shooting, in city after city that is plagued by gun violence.”
Senator Murphy stood next to a photo of 6-year-old Dylan Hockley wearing a Superman shirt and spoke of the autistic boy and the teacher who was found with him wrapped in her arms, both of whom were victims at Sandy Hook.
“It doesn’t take courage to stand here on the floor of the U.S. Senate (…) It takes courage to look into the eye of a shooter and instead of running, wrapping your arms around a 6-year-old boy and accepting death,” he said. “If Ann-Marie Murphy could do that then ask yourself — what can you do to make sure that Orlando or Sandy Hook never, ever happens again?”
Senator Ted Cruz, former Republican presidential candidate and someone who once held the Senate in a filibuster for over 21 hours, criticized Murphy’s move as “political distraction.”
“Yesterday, we saw a political show on the Senate floor,” Cruz said. “Democrat after Democrat standing for hours incensed not at ISIS, incensed not at radical Islamic terrorism, incensed that Americans have a right to keep and bear arms.”