The Senate's traditional gentlemanly decorum cracked Wednesday when Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) laughed out loud at a conspiracy theory advanced by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).
The incredulous chuckle came amid debate over whether the gun background check compromise worked out by Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) would lead to the creation of a national database of gun owners.
Cruz and other conservatives have argued that it would. Manchin and Toomey, however, have repeatedly pointed out that their legislation explicitly barred a federal registry and would impose a harsh penalty on any official who tried to create one.
On Wednesday, Schumer took to the floor to challenge Cruz.
"Has my colleague in the last 17 years detected any move out of Washington for national registration?" asked Schumer.
Cruz acknowledged that the Manchin-Toomey bill does not include a registry, but he said he believes it would open the door to one.
"In my opinion, adopting mandatory federal government background checks for purely private transactions between law-abiding citizens, puts us inexorably on the path to a push for a federal registry," Cruz said.
When Schumer pressed him and asked if he had detected any movement yet, Cruz replied, "It is not currently proposed, but if the bill that is being considered would be adopted, it would put us on that path. And I think that path would be profoundly unwise and would be inconsistent with the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms."
While Cruz was speaking, someone off-camera could be heard laughing. A Senate Democratic aide confirmed that the chuckle came from Schumer.
The Manchin-Toomey amendment failed on Wednesday.