The NRA sent a letter announcing they would score a cloture vote on the Senate gun control bill if the bill was not amended in ways they found to be acceptable.
Now Dave Weigel (in whom my confidence is limited) and the AllahPundit (in whom my confidence is vast) are telling me that the vote to allow debate to begin (not a final cloture vote!) is being scored. From Dave Weigel (prior to the Thursday morning vote):
And so we have a test, at 11 a.m., of whether Republicans and red state Democrats are willing to buck a fringey NRA position even though it'll knock their ratings down by, at most, a letter grade.
And AllahP, after the motion to commence debate passed with 68 votes including 16 Republicans:
Whole lotta NRA ratings are going down tomorrow.
I am unconvinced - I don't think the NRA said what these guys say it said, and fears (or hopes!) that the Senate has defied the NRA are premature.
This is what I see in the NRA letter (via Weigel):
We hope the Senate will replace the current provisions of S. 649 with language that is properly focused on addressing mental health inadequacies; prosecuting violent criminals; and keeping our kids safe in their schools. Should it fail to do so, the NRA will make an exception to our standard policy of not “scoring” procedural votes and strongly oppose a cloture motion to move to final passage of S. 649.
That is a conditional threat focused on amendments yet to be offered and refers to a cloture vote. Today's vote did not close debate on the bill, it opened it. What was closed was debate on whether the bill should be considered at all. Slowly turn the wheels...
More from the NRA:
During consideration of S. 649, should one or more amendments be offered that adequately address these important issues while protecting the fundamental rights of law-abiding gun owners, the NRA will offer our enthusiastic support and consider those votes in our future candidate evaluations as well.
That sounds to me as if they expect the bill to be debated and amendments to be offered.
Well. I would say this is not the vote the NRA was watching and we are days (or weeks) away from the NRA grading anyone, and if it were just Weigel I would be pounding the table saying so.
SINCE YOU ASK: Surely you are not relying on my expertise about Senate procedures? My two cents is that the Senate invoked cloture on a motion to proceed to consideration of S.649. Eventually, after amendments and debate, someone will move to close debate on S.649 and put it to a final vote. Then we will see (or not) a real filibuster.
As to how the NRA will score that second cloture effort (if it comes to that), the letter says they would wait until they saw what the amended bill looked like.
Far from over? This is hardly begun. And anyone crowing (or fretting) that the NRA failed to scare the Senate is misreading their letter.
UNEXPECTEDLY: Ed Kilgore of the Washington Monthly sees it as I do:
The fragility of today’s accomplishment is best illustrated by the cascade of Republican “yea” voters on cloture making it clear they were simply voting to “allow a debate.” That doesn’t mean they won’t join the next filibuster (one which the NRA has indicated it will “score”), much less vote for Manchin-Toomey.
Jason Sattler at the National Memo will be eating crow, unless I do:
The NRA threatened to “score” Thursday’s vote against lawmakers’ ratings, hoping to kill the bill before it was even written. But 17 Republicans joined all the Democrats in the Senate except Mark Pryor (D-AR) and Mark Begich (D-AK) for cloture to prevent a filibuster from derailing the debate.
Gavin Aronsen of Mother Jones notes the NRA's watchful eye but does not link it to today's vote.