The Senate on Tuesday broke through nearly 30 years of stalemate on gun control legislation by voting 64 to 34 to advance an 80-page gun safety bill to respond to the mass shootings in Buffalo, N.Y., and Uvalde, Texas, that left 31 people dead, including 19 school children.
The Senate voted to proceed to the bill just more than an hour after negotiators unveiled its text, giving lawmakers little time to digest its details.
The bill had strong momentum after a group of 10 Republican senators led by Sen. John Cornyn (Texas), who has an A-plus rating from the NRA, earlier this month signed onto a bipartisan framework of principles with 10 Democrats.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) gave the effort another boost last week when he announced that he supported the bipartisan framework and would also support legislation based on its key points.
Every Senate Democrat was expected to support the bill, even though it didn’t include more far-reaching reforms that many of them support, such as bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines and universal background checks.
The vote shakes up the politics of the gun violence debate in Congress as many of the Republicans who voted to proceed to the bill have A or A-plus NRA ratings.
Here are the 14 Republicans who voted yes:
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas)
Cornyn is a senior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee who negotiated with Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) last year on legislation to expand background checks for commercial sellers but without success.
Cornyn scored one of the few notable accomplishments on gun violence legislation in recent years when he coauthored and helped pass the Fix NICS Act in 2018. The legislation required federal agencies to produce plans for uploading all relevant information to the National Instant Criminal Background Checks System.
McConnell tapped Cornyn to lead the negotiations for Republicans shortly after a bipartisan group of senators met in Murphy’s basement to begin talks in hopes of finding a way to respond to the Buffalo and Uvalde shootings.
Cornyn has an A-plus rating from the NRA and McConnell has praised him for knowing more about gun-safety policy than anyone else in the Senate GOP conference.
Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)
McConnell showed his interest in passing a bill to respond to the violence in Buffalo and Uvalde when he tapped Cornyn to lead the negotiations with Democrats.
A Republican senator close to McConnell said the leader’s decision to task Cornyn with the job showed that he wanted to get a positive result.
McConnell later said as much when speaking to reporters this month.
“I am hopeful that we could come up with a bipartisan solution that’s directly related to the facts of this awful massacre,” he said in late May.
McConnell announced last week that he would support the gun-safety bill if it hewed to the bipartisan framework endorsed by 10 Republican and 10 Democratic senators on June 12.
McConnell also has an A-plus rating from the NRA.
Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.)
Tillis made up the core negotiating group along with Cornyn and Democratic Sens. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.).
He was initially seen as skeptical toward gun-safety legislation when early on during the debate he raised concerns about red flag legislation but once Cornyn and McConnell brought him into the talks he turned out to be a valuable asset to the negotiations.
Tillis is viewed as a good political barometer of the Republican Party and his support for the framework likely encouraged other Republicans to sign on.
He has an A NRA rating.
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine)
Collins is one of the principal dealmakers in the Senate and she attended the first meeting in Murphy’s hideaway in late May. Collins was particularly active in the talks to combat illegal straw purchasing and firearms trafficking.
She introduced the Stop Illegal Trafficking in Firearms Act in April of last year.
Collins has a B rating from the NRA.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.)
Graham cosponsored legislation with Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) in 2018 to amend the federal criminal code to authorize and establish procedures for a family member or law enforcement officer to request a court order to take away a firearm from someone judged to pose a risk to himself or others.
Graham attended the first meeting of the bipartisan group in Murphy’s hideaway and said afterward that he supported legislation to create incentives for states to administer red flag laws if they chose.
Graham has an A rating from the NRA.
Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.)
Cassidy worked on the mental health component of the gun safety bill and participated in the first bipartisan discussion in Murphy’s office via telephone.
Cassidy is building a reputation for himself as a bipartisan dealmaker. He signed a statement last year endorsing a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure framework, which paved the way for the deal eventually passing.
He’s not up for re-election until 2026.
Cassidy has an A rating from the NRA.
Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.)
Blunt is the chairman of the Senate Republican Policy Committee and a close ally of McConnell’s.
He’s not as moderate as other Republicans who signed onto the bipartisan framework on gun-safety principles earlier this month.
McConnell’s desire to get a result on gun-safety legislation may have helped Blunt vote yes. He is retiring from Congress at the end of the year.
Blunt has an A rating from the NRA.
Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.)
Burr is another McConnell loyalist who is retiring from Congress at the end of this year.
The prominent role that his home-state colleague Tillis played in the talks gave Burr more incentive to vote for proceeding to the bill.
He also signed onto the bipartisan framework of principles released on June 12.
He has an A-plus rating from the NRA.
Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah)
Romney has emerged with Collins and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) as the three most likely Republican swing votes in this Congress.
He voted twice to convict former President Trump on impeachment charges.
Romney kept his involvement in the discussions pretty low-profile but he signed the June bipartisan framework.
He played a prominent role in negotiating last year’s bipartisan infrastructure bill and earlier this bill hashed out a compromise with Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) on a $10 billion COVID relief package.
He is one of the biggest bipartisan dealmakers in the Senate and has an A rating from the NRA.
Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio)
Portman was one of the 10 Republican senators who endorsed the June framework along with 10 Democrats.
He is an advisor to McConnell’s leadership team and will retire from Congress at the end of the year.
Portman was one of the lead negotiators on last year’s bipartisan infrastructure bill. More recently he has emerged as the Senate’s leading champion for supporting Ukraine’s fight against Russia’s invasion.
He has an A rating from the NRA.
Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.)
Capito was one of the four surprise Republican votes for proceeding to the gun safety bill Tuesday evening.
Capito did not endorse the June framework and when asked about it said she would have to review the details of the legislative text before rendering an opinion on whether she would support or oppose the bill.
Capito is also an advisor to McConnell’s leadership team and her home-state colleague Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) was an early participant in the bipartisan discussions on responding to the violence in Uvalde.
Capito has an A rating from the NRA.
Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa)
Ernst didn’t endorse the bipartisan framework when it was first unveiled this month and also said she wanted to review the legislative text before making a decision.
Ernst is a member of McConnell’s leadership team as the vice chairwoman of the Senate Republican Conference.
She was seen as a possible yes vote after she signaled willingness to consider raising the minimum age for buying an AR-15-style rifle to 21.
She has an A rating from the NRA.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska)
Murkowski was viewed as a mystery vote heading into floor consideration of the gun safety bill.
Murkowski deflected reporters’ questions about the various gun-safety proposals in recent weeks by saying she was focused on other issues.
She played a leading role in negotiating last year’s $1 trillion infrastructure bill and isn’t afraid to break with the majority of her conference on big votes.
She famously opposed Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation in 2018 and voted to impeach Trump for inciting insurrection last year.
Murkowski is up for re-election in November but she has a built a political base for herself in Alaska that includes many moderate Republicans, independents and Democrats.
She has an A rating from the NRA.
Rep. Todd Young (R-Ind.)
Young was one of the biggest surprises to emerge on Tuesday after he voted to proceed to the legislation.
He’s a former member of McConnell’s elected leadership team as someone who chaired the National Republican Senatorial Committee in 2019 and 2020.
Young has a pragmatic streak and knows that showing independent voters and suburban women, two key electoral blocs, that Republicans know how to govern is good politics in general elections.
Young is a former Marine Corps intelligence officer and has an A-plus rating from the NRA.