April 20, 2013
Majority Leader Harry Reid was free to bring the deal struck by West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin and Pennsylvania Republican Pat Toomey to the floor for an up-or-down vote, and this background-checks amendment might have passed. It did convince 54 Senators, including four Republicans.
But under Senate rules, a simple majority vote would have opened the measure to up to 30 hours of debate, which would have meant inspecting the details. The White House demanded, and Mr. Reid agreed, that Congress should try to pass the amendment without such a debate.
Majority rules would have also opened the bill to pro-gun amendments that were likely to pass. That would have boxed Mr. Reid into the embarrassing spectacle of having to later scotch a final bill because it also contained provisions that the White House loathes. So Mr. Reid moved under “unanimous consent” to allow nine amendments, each with a 60-vote threshold. . . .
Manchin-Toomey was rushed together on a political timetable, and a thorough scrub would have revealed that its finer legal points aren’t as modest as liberals claim. Tellingly, the White House blew up earlier negotiations with Tom Coburn on background checks. The Oklahoma Republican favored more and better checks across secondary firearms markets like gun shows and online, but liberals insisted that federally licensed dealers had to keep records.
In other words, keeping guns away from dangerous or unstable people was less important than defeating the NRA.
How’d that work out for you, Barack?
UPDATE: Related: What Republicans Can Learn From The Gun Debate. “The president commands little loyalty in Congress and generates enormous antipathy. His model for governing — demonize the other side, campaign around the country, get the media in a tizzy — is remarkably ineffective. And most important, it matters what is in legislation and whether there is an alternative offered by the GOP.”
ANOTHER UPDATE: Where Obama Went Wrong In The Gun Control Fight. “’They screwed up. This thing was lost in March.’ . . . Although major gun control groups rallied support for the bills, the movement certainly lacked the fervor of the Tea Party rallies of 2010.”
I think the big mistake was picking this fight at all. The only strong constituency for gun control is to be found among Democratic journalists and pundits. And even there it’s weaker than it used to be.
Plus this: “The debate on the senate floor wasn’t about anybody being afraid [to vote for something] — it was about people looking at proposals that don’t address the problem.”
MORE: Prof. Stephen Clark writes:
Don’t forget to mention that he doesn’t have enough clout even to swing gun-control legislation in his home state of Illinois where Democrats enjoy a super-majority in the legislature. Recent legislation on control went down in a humiliating defeat an order of magnitude worse than the Senate debacle.
You would think that knowledge of his home state would inform his political judgment. Make of that what you will.
Well, the Illinois thing surprised me. But then, I didn’t spend 8 years in the Illinois State Senate.