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Gun Bill Dodges GOP Filibuster
PHOTO: Veetek Witkowski holds a newly assembled AR-15 rifle at the Stag Arms company in New Britain, Conn, April 10, 2013.

(Image Credit: Charles Krupa/AP Photo)

The stage has been set.

A full gun debate will begin next week in the Senate.

On a vote of 68-31, Democrats and a smaller coalition of Republicans joined forces to defeat a Republican filibuster threat of gun control legislation on the floor of the Senate.

Two red-state Democrats, Sens. Mark Begich of Alaska and Mark Pryor of Arkansas, voted against the measure, essentially voting for a filibuster.

READ MORE: Biden Slams Lawmakers' Threatening to Veto Gun Control Bill

The vote today was a procedural one, clearing the way for a full gun debate next week. But it is a monumental one, marking the start of the most significant Senate debate on guns in at least a decade, a defeat for the NRA and other groups opposed to the bill.

"The hard work starts now," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said after the vote.

The Senate will start moving next week though amendments to the base bill, a painstaking process with amendments already stacking up. Reid indicated that it might take beyond next week to finish a bill and move toward a final vote on the controversial legislation.

Among the amendments, the Senate will first consider the background check agreement announced by Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., and Pat Toomey, R-Pa., today. Other amendments will include the assault-weapons ban, ammunition capacity clips or magazines and on mental health.

READ MORE: Strange Bedfellows Week in Washington

The procedural step forward for the bill came after an emotional and busy week on Capitol Hill for the families of those killed in the Newtown massacre, who had spent the past three days lobbying legislators for support for stricter gun control laws.

During the half hour of voting today, the families of gun violence - from Newtown, Conn., to Aurora, Colo., to Virginia Tech - watched quietly from seats in the Senate gallery overlooking the Senate floor.

After the vote, there were hugs, tears and smiles from the families, many of whom felt that the vote today was a first step. Some were conflicted, expressing a desire that the Senate should do more legislatively.

Asked by ABC News whether the base bill is enough, Erica Lafferty, daughter of slain Sandy Hook Elementary School principal Dawn Hochsprung, said no.

"Not at all," Lafferty said.

READ MORE: Obama With Newtown Families Demands Gun Control Vote

Jillian Soto, sister of killed Newtown Elementary teacher Vicki Soto, shared that sentiment.

"There's some stuff I wish we had stronger," Soto said, adding that it is a first step, "but I am happy that we are getting somewhere with it."

After the vote, the families of the Newtown victims put out a joint statement, saying they are "encouraged."

READ MORE: After Newtown Shootings, Most Back Some Gun Controls, Poll Shows

"The senators who have vowed to filibuster this bill should be ashamed of their attempt to silence efforts to prevent the next American tragedy," the families said. "Their staunch opposition to sensible gun reform is an affront to the 26 innocent children and educators who were murdered in Newtown. No one should have to experience the pain we have endured - commonsense gun laws will help spare others from the grief we live with every day."

President Obama called the families moments after the vote to congratulate them, the White House said.

If the bill does end up passing in the Senate, it faces an uphill climb in the House of Representatives.

Asked by ABC News today, Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, said he "fully expects" the House will act in "some way, shape or form."

"But to make a blanket commitment without knowing what the underlying bill is would be irresponsible on my part," he said.

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