Coburn, Schumer Lock Horns Over Gun Control

by Niels Lesniewski, Roll Call  |  published on November 30, 2012

Cooler heads prevailed on the Senate floor Thursday night after Oklahoma Republican Sen. Tom Coburn initially threatened to stall completion of the annual defense authorization bill amidst a feud with New York Democratic Sen. Charles E. Schumer about a gun rights amendment.

Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., offered an agreement to set up consideration of a set of amendments, including a Coburn proposal to make it more difficult to keep veterans from owning guns. Schumer objected when he learned the amendment was in the queue.

“We have senators objecting to protecting the rights of the people who defend us,” Coburn said.

Coburn initially said he would block any other requests, grabbing the attention of senators and staffers still in the Capitol late Thursday. But he relented after some prodding from Sen. John McCain, ranking member on the Armed Services panel. The Arizona senator cautioned fellow Republicans against moves that could delay the fiscal 2013 defense policy measure because doing so could give more fodder to Democrats supporting a standoff over the Senate’s rules.

“There’s more here, frankly, than just a refusal to allow an amendment,” McCain said. “That is going to mean that it’s more likely that we have this showdown, which we think — many of us think — would be devastating to this institution and the way that it’s done business for a couple of hundred years.”

Schumer, a gun control supporter and the No. 3 Democratic leader, has succeeded in keeping the Coburn proposal from a vote. He said, however, that his effort to keep the amendment from reaching the floor should not be equated with the tactics Coburn has deployed through the years.

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