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GOP senators fear a debate on gun legislation

Republican Sens. Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, and Mike Lee
Republican Sens. Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, and Mike LeeAssociated Press and Getty Images

When President Obama delivered his State of the Union address last month, he urged lawmakers to simply give a bill a fair hearing. Referencing parents of Newtown victims, the president said, "They deserve a vote. Gabby Giffords deserves a vote. The families of Newtown deserve a vote. The families of Aurora deserve a vote. The families of Oak Creek and Tucson and Blacksburg, and the countless other communities ripped open by gun violence -- they deserve a simple vote."

And right now, Senate Republicans' top goal on gun legislation seems to be making sure that doesn't happen.

Sen. Mike Lee (R) of Utah argued today that he intends to block a floor debate on gun legislation in order to ensure a "full debate." I don't mean to be picky, but that's gibberish -- one does not guarantee a debate by blocking a debate.

Nevertheless, Lee's efforts are drawing more support from the far-right. We talked the other day about a trio of conservative Republican senators -- Lee, Rand Paul, and Ted Cruz -- who've vowed to filibuster any legislation that changes any gun laws in any way. Their little group is apparently growing.

Sen. Marco Rubio R-Fla. will reportedly sign the letter from Sens. Mike Lee R-Utah, Rand Paul R-Ky., and Ted Cruz R-Texas to require 60 votes to bring the Senate gun control bill to the Senate floor.

"Sens Rubio and Inhofe have signed the Lee-Paul-Cruz letter stating they will object to bringing new gun legislation to the floor," announced Lee's press secretary on Twitter earlier this afternoon.

Soon after, Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) followed suit.

Just so we're clear, what these five senators are saying is they intend to filibuster the motion to proceed on any gun bill. In other words, they're not only going to try to prevent legislation from passing, they also intend to block any bill related to gun violence from even being debated on the Senate floor.

I'm not sure what they're so afraid of.

Why not welcome the debate? Why try to prevent both sides from presenting their views and voting on a proposal?

From the far-right's perspective, the worst case scenario is easy to imagine: the Senate might pass a bill that Republicans and the NRA don't like. But even under these circumstances, the legislation would go to the Republican-led House, where progressive legislation has no credible chance of success.

So why go to so much effort to block a Senate debate?