April 17, 2013 by David K. Sutton
Gun Control: Senate Votes 54-46 On Extended Background Checks
Today the Senate voted 54-46 on gun legislation that would extend background checks to include gun shows and online purchases. For those who are aware the bill did not pass, I purposely refrained from saying the Senate voted to defeat the bill. That’s because the bill would have passed if not for Republican filibuster. But as usual the media is lazy. If you search Google for “gun legislation filibuster,” most of the results are from 6 days ago, when Republicans threatened to filibuster debate of the legislation. Well today Republicans filibustered the actual Senate bill. Remove the filibuster and the bill passes by 8 votes.
I understand the filibuster (and the 60-vote threshold) is a Senate rule, but this threshold is completely arbitrary. Why not 70? Or 55? Or 54?
President Obama didn’t mince words in response to the shameful politicians (let’s face it, mostly Republicans) who voted “no” on extended background checks. “The gun lobby and its allies willfully lied about the bill,” said a visibly angry President Obama. “All in all, this was a pretty shameful day for Washington.”
By the way, the headlines at many news outlets say the Senate handed Obama a defeat. — Wrong. — This was a defeat for Americans. This was a defeat for Newtown families. Yes, I had a problem with the national reciprocity portion of this bill, allowing concealed carry across state lines, but that is not why the bill did not pass. It was weak-kneed politicians who put their jobs above sensible gun safety that resulted in the death of extended background checks.
Getting back to the filibuster and arbitrary voting thresholds — I say the only threshold that matters is a majority. Not only do we have the inane filibuster rule, but I remember one or more Republicans calling for other artificial (as in, pulled from their ass) thresholds for legislation. I recall a Republican calling for a 70-vote threshold for health care reform. — The filibuster needs to go.
The concealed carry (national reciprocity) provision was actually offered as an amendment. It was called the Cornyn Amendment (S. 649). Named after it’s sponsor, Senator John Cornyn (R-TX), it also failed to pass.
Democrats agreed to the 60-vote threshold for passage of the main bill so that Republican amendments (like the Cornyn amendment) would be less likely to pass and weaken the overall bill. Technically, if I understand the Senate rules correctly, there was no actual filibuster, but that’s only because they agreed to a 60-vote threshold for passage. You can be sure if that had not been the case, with a 54-46 vote in favor, Republicans would certainly have filibustered the bill.