I live in the same time zone as the nation’s capital although a few hours’ drive south of it. Monday evening as I drove home from a civic meeting I enjoyed a full strawberry moon. There was no figurative mooning in the Senate as members of both parties were hard at work defeating four gun regulation proposals and in the process covering their collective backsides rather than protecting the people who elected them.
Last week Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy led a fifteen hour filibuster of the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 2016. He was joined by several of his colleagues (mostly other Democrats). Murphy and friends were insisting that the Republican controlled Senate allow an amendment on gun regulations to come to the floor for a vote. The Republicans relented, a deal was struck and votes were scheduled for Monday night.
What ended up on the table were two sets of competing amendments on two gun regulation issues: preventing those on the no-fly list from buying guns and closing the gun show loophole. The problem was that the Republican sponsored amendments (via John Cornyn of Texas and Chuck Grassley of Iowa) contained what effectively were poison pills that the NRA had them insert so that Democrats were forced to vote against the amendments.
California’s Diane Feinstein and the aformentioned Murphy offered Democratic counter-proposals. While I can see how some Second Amendment Absolutists, (as they like to be called – more about that later), had some reservations with the Democratic proposals if we truly had 60 or more Senators who were interested in a workable compromise that would help protect the vast majority of Americans it could have been worked out. The problem is that too many members of the upper chamber are either looking for a campaign trail talking point or afraid of the NRA or both.
Unlike a lot of liberals I never got very excited when the votes were scheduled. First off I knew that the 60 vote threshold would be difficult to achieve. (None of the four proposals got more than 53 votes.) The larger reality was that even if something could be gotten through the Senate the chances of it passing the House and reaching the President’s desk were extremely slim. Both chambers of Congress will only be in session for a few more days prior to Election Day. More importantly the House is even more wedded to the NRA which, in reality, is against any gun regulations at all.
The NRA is among the Second Amendment Absolutists. The problem is they interpret the Second Amendment the way the late Antonin Scalia did which is to effectively ignore its first four words. The NRA has devolved into a lobbying arm of the gun manufacturers with the sole purpose of selling more guns regardless of need or consequences.
There is an extremely slim chance that Maine Republican Senator Susan Collins can work out a compromise in the backrooms of the Senate. The wisdom of expending the political capital necessary to work out such a deal is questionable considering its extremely limited chances of being enacted in the 114th Congress.
The moon was beautiful in the skies of Franklin and Wake counties in North Carolina Monday night. The same can’t be said for the scene on the floor of the United States Senate.
Please note: This article was originally intended for publishing on Wednesday July 22nd.
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