Senator holds floor in bid to shake up gun stalemate – while missing 'pizza night'

NEWYou can now listen to Fox News articles!

“We’ve been here before,” proclaimed Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., on the Senate floor at 6:44 p.m. ET, seven hours and 23 minutes into a tag-team Democratic filibuster on firearms.

The “here” to which Udall refers is the aftermath of a mass shooting where Democrats proclaim it’s high-time Congress get serious about the carnage and guns. The geographical “here” hopscotches the country, insidiously latching a macabre appellation to each venue: Killen, Texas; San Ysidro, Calif.; Blacksburg, Va.; Fort Hood, Texas (twice); Tucson, Ariz.; Aurora, Colo.; Newtown, Conn.; Charleston, S.C.; San Bernardino, Calif.; Orlando, Fla.

“The American people are seeing shooting after shooting and not seeing change,” said Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., at 7:05 p.m., seven hours and 45 minutes into the jawboning. “I can’t believe we’re going to let this happen again.”

Heinrich’s remarks reflect the customary disposition of Democrats following each of these grisly incidents. It’s a feedback loop. Nothing ever seems to happen. Yet each time, Democrats claim this is the time things will be different.

After Newtown, Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., argued that “things change quickly here in Washington. They’ve changed for gay marriage. They’re changing for immigration and they will change for gun safety sooner than you think.”

Well, one changed.

And so Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., exasperated since the bloodbath at Sandy Hook Elementary in December 2012, headed to the Senate floor at 11:21 a.m. Wednesday with little fanfare.

Murphy began to talk.

“I’ve had enough,” said Murphy. “I’m going to stand here and hold the floor while we give our colleagues time to try to find a path forward.”

Democrats wanted votes on gun control measures during debate to the Commerce/Justice/Science spending bill.

This raises the question of whether Democrats pursued a failed political and policy strategy on firearms over the years.

“Why does the system not work when 75 percent of Americans say that they support these pieces of legislation?” asked House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., about the Democrats’ tactics.

So what’s wrong?

“The voter needs to follow through on their conviction. If they think that they want this legislation, they ought to stop voting for people who oppose it,” said Hoyer.

It’s unclear if Murphy’s filibuster will change anything. But the filibuster was a different gambit.

The Senate allows for unlimited debate. That means once a senator commandeers the floor, they’re in control until they turn it over to someone else -- sometimes out of exhaustion. But, a senator can’t sit down or abandon the floor and still maintain the floor.

During recent Senate talkathons, senators increasingly relied on a cadre of colleagues to prowl the floor, ready to grant them a vocal reprieve. Senators are allowed to “yield for a question” from another senator without relinquishing the floor. Thus, Murphy would turn to another senator and state “I yield to Senator ______ for a question without losing my right to the floor.” Then the other senator would start in, usually ending a 15-minute soliloquy with an solitary interrogative of Murphy. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., used this tactic during his nearly 13-hour filibuster in March 2013. Same with Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, during his 21-hour talkathon (technically not a filibuster) in the fall of 2013.

But all the while, Murphy remained on his feet. It’s customary for Senate pages to bring a glass of ice water to each desk when a senator is speaking. But Murphy’s desk was bereft of water – perhaps not to tempt the senator.

Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., joined Murphy in solidarity during the filibuster. The floor belonged to the Connecticut Democrat. But Booker didn’t leave the chamber or sit down in support of his colleague.

If you can’t leave the Senate floor, you can’t put say good night to your kids. Cruz epically read “Green Eggs and Ham” as a bedtime story to his daughters during his protracted oratory. They watched at home on C-SPAN2.

Murphy faced a similar conundrum just before 8:30 p.m. when he looked up to see his seven-year-old son Owen watching from above in the gallery. Murphy’s wife Cathy was also nearby along with four-year-old son Rider.

The senator addressed Owen.

“A, you’re supposed to be in bed,” admonished Murphy. “B, I’m sorry I missed pizza night.”

Murphy then had a personal message for his son.

“I hope you’ll understand why I’m doing this,” continued Murphy. “For those of us who are parents, this is deeply, deeply personal.”

Murphy had parting words for Owen.

“Go to bed!” hollered the senator, drawing laughter from the gallery.

Around 1:35 a.m., Murphy had reason for optimism about his effort. He told the Senate there would be votes to expand background checks to gun shows and to bar those on the terrorist watch list from getting firearms.

Murphy concluded his remarks at 2:11 a.m., 14 hours and 50 minutes after he started. It’s the ninth-longest speech in modern Senate history.

“I hope that this means something,” said Murphy as he left the chamber.

Murphy declared that he “held up better than I thought” during the filibuster. But there would be no rest.

He already missed pizza night. And Murphy wasn’t going to skip out on Owen’s last day of first grade Thursday.

The senator said he was due at Owen’s school at 8:30 a.m.

Capitol Attitude is a weekly column written by members of the Fox News Capitol Hill team. Their articles take you inside the halls of Congress, and cover the spectrum of policy issues being introduced, debated and voted on there.