WASHINGTON – Senate Republicans on Tuesday moved the National Rifle Association’s top priority ahead of a $491 billion defense bill, setting up a vote on legislation to shield firearms manufacturers and dealers from lawsuits over gun crimes.
Completion of the defense bill, which the Senate had been debating for a week, will now be delayed until fall. Democrats were incensed.
“What’s happening on this gun liability bill is really despicable,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. “To put that ahead of the defense bill, I think, is the most distorted priorities I can possibly conceive of.”
On a 66-32 test vote, sponsors of the gun bill showed they have more than enough support to prevent opponents from defeating it with a filibuster.
With strong support from the White House, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., used a technical maneuver to halt debate on the defense bill and move to the contentious gun legislation sponsored by Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho.
The bill would prohibit lawsuits against the firearms industry for damages resulting from the unlawful use of a firearm or ammunition.
Craig said such lawsuits are “predatory and aimed at bankrupting the firearms industry.”