WASHINGTON — The Senate voted Tuesday to effectively block the Justice Department from undertaking gun smuggling investigations like the flawed "Operation Fast and Furious" that was aimed at breaking up networks running guns to Mexican drug cartels.
The operation lost track of hundreds of the weapons, some of which were used to commit crimes in Mexico and the United States.
The 99-0 vote would block the government from transferring guns to drug cartels unless federal agents "continuously monitor or control" the weapons.
The amendment's sponsor, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, called the vote "just the first step toward ensuring that such a foolish operation can never be repeated by our own law enforcement."
The Justice Department has already stopped the program.
The vote came as the Senate debated a $128 billion spending measure that would fund Justice Department operations and those of several other Cabinet agencies for the 2012 budget year already under way.
Operation Fast and Furious was a gun smuggling investigation by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives aimed at tracking small-time illicit gun buyers up the chain to major traffickers in an effort to take down arms networks. In the process, ATF agents lost track of many of the weapons.