WASHINGTON (AP) - The Senate's top Democrat is setting Congress' first showdown vote for Thursday on President Barack Obama's gun control drive as a small but mounting number of Republicans appear willing to buck a conservative effort to prevent debate from even beginning.
Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada announced his decision Tuesday as the White House, congressional Democrats and relatives of the victims of December's mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., amped up pressure on GOP lawmakers to allow debate and votes on gun control proposals. Twenty first-graders and six educators were gunned down at Sandy Hook Elementary School, turning gun control into a top-tier national issue.
"We have a responsibility to safeguard these little kids," Reid said on the Senate floor, pointing to a poster-sized photo of a white picket fence that had slats bearing the names of the Newtown victims. "And unless we do something more than what's the law today, we have failed."
"We don't have the guts to stand up and vote yes or no? We want to vote maybe? Tell that to the families in Newtown" and other communities where there have been mass shootings, said Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.
But Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, one of 13 conservative senators who want to block the debate, said the Senate bill puts "burdens on law abiding citizens exercising a constitutional right." He said none of its provisions "would have done anything to prevent the horrible tragedy of Sandy Hook."
Obama was calling senators from both parties Tuesday to push for the gun bill, according to a White House official.