A Republican-backed compromise amendment to prevent people on the “no fly list” from acquiring firearms survived an effort to kill the measure Thursday — but at the moment it likely lacks the votes to pass it.
The amendment, sponsored by moderate Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, would allow the Justice Department to block people on the no-fly list and one other watchlist from buying guns, but would give them an ability to appeal.
A procedural vote to table, or essentially kill, the amendment failed 46-52. Eight Republicans voted against tabling the bill. If Thursday’s motion is seen as a test vote, supporters of the amendment lack a handful of votes to pass it.
"I'm very pleased with where we stand,” Collins said after the vote. “Obviously I'd like to get to 60 but this was a good day."
Two other senators who are likely to support the amendment, Dianne Feinstein and Bernie Sanders, missed Thursday’s vote.
The vote comes on the same day that House Democrats ended an unprecedented revolt in that body that lasted more than 24 hours, in a protest that demanded votes on gun control bills there.
Democrats have renewed their push for greater regulation on firearms sales in the wake of the deadly attack on a nightclub in Orlando, in which a lone gunman killed 49 people before being killed in a shootout with police.
But a nearly 15-hour filibuster in the Senate last week that led to votes on gun control bills Monday ended with four measures being voted down.
The Collins amendment would cover approximately 109,000 people on the government's no-fly list and people who can't fly without intensive screening, known as the “selectee list.”
The killer in Orlando, Omar Mateen, was not on the lists when he legally purchased the weapons he used in the attack, officials have said.
The No. 2 Senate Republican, John Cornyn of Texas, said Collins’ amendment wouldn’t have prevented the massacre.
"I think we need to be engaged in something more constructive that would have actually stopped shooters like the Orlando shooter," Cornyn said.
Critics of using the no-fly and other watchlists to bar ownership of firearms, like the National Rifle Association, say the system for placing people on the lists is arbitrary and people who have done nothing wrong can be mistakenly listed.
Collins’ amendment allows for appeals, but the NRA opposes the measure, which is a hurdle in convincing six Republicans to support it, if a vote is held.
Sen. Dick Durbin, a Democrat who represents Illinois, was not sure the Collins amendment would be called for a vote.
"It’s in the hands of [Senate Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell," Durbin said, referring to the Republican majority leader in the Senate.