Thursday, April 18, 2013

Failure to Act

     Yesterday's Senate vote on the Mansion-Toomey bill or the Public Safety and Second Amendment Rights Protection Act angered me deeply more severely than any other political outcome I can remember.  This bipartisan sponsored bill seemed to be such a no-brainier for senators to vote in favor that I was flabbergasted it did not pass.  The bill had been adjusted and trimmed to appeal to a wider range of senators in the hopes of getting it passed.  It seems as if the NRA's scare tactics have worked or maybe these legislators are just so afraid of change and the gun lobby that their cowardice was exposed in full colors yesterday.  I could understand why some were skeptical about the assault weapons ban or banning the capacity of magazines but expanding universal federal background checks seemed like the easiest remedy to the horrific tragedy in Newtown, CT.  Instead, nothing has been done in response to that massacre and now our legislators have shamed themselves.
     Despite the bill not passing the Senate, it did receive a majority of the vote (54-46).  However, due to strange cloture rules established around the mid 1970's, all bills must receive a super majority of 60 votes.  This is part of the problem in Washington.  Many have referenced a need for filibuster reform but nothing has been done.  Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid pledged his concern and predicated action, only to fall short and cut a hand-shake deal to not reform the filibuster and remain at the 60 vote threshold.  They need to eliminate this procedure because even though this bill should have received at least 60 votes in the first place, it passed by a simple majority which in today's Senate, was not good enough.
     President Obama expressed his utter discontent for the 113th Congress in the Rose Garden yesterday surrounded by parents of victims of Newtown and former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.  It is hard to predict what he may do in the future but one thing is clear, he is not done fighting for victims of gun violence.  As he states, "this is only round one."
     Three of the democratic senators who voted against the bill, Max Baucus (MT), Mark Begich (AK), and Mark Pryor (AR), are up for reelection in 2014.  They also stated they were representing their constituents with their vote because they come from rural districts.  Some believe Obama may try to defeat these senators in their 2014 elections.  These senators should feel the wrath of their constituents given 90 percent of Americans believe in stronger background checks.
     Many politicians are hiding behind the 2nd Amendment by insinuating they do not want to vote for any legislation that will inhibit the right to bear arms.  Marco Rubio echoed this narrative Sunday on Meet the Press.  Citizens' 2nd Amendment rights would not be hurt by expanding federal background checks.  In President Obama's speech yesterday, he even addressed the NRA's scare tactic of a potential federal data base or registry for those with guns.  The President emphasized that as part of the Mansion-Toomey bill, this such register would be illegal.  A few weeks ago, freshman Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) used weak and porous arguments defending the rights of the 2nd Amendment when challenging Senator Dianne Feinstein (R-CA) in a Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing regarding her assault weapons ban.  He asked "...would she [Feinstein] consider it constitutional for Congress to specify that the First Amendment shall apply only to the following books and shall not apply to the books that Congress has deemed outside the protection of the Bill of Rights?"  He stated congress should not have the right to deem certain weapons illegal under the 2nd Amendment.  Congress already has restrictions against free speech for certain phrases such as shouting "fire" in a crowed building.  By his logic, the 2nd Amendment permits an endless possibility for ordinary Americans to possess military grade weapons only designed for the confines of war.
     Conservatives are rejoicing with yesterday's vote calling it a victory.  The conservative blog RedState had an article titled "We win.  They lose.  The 2nd Amendment is Safe."  This demonstrates the Right's flawed rhetoric, and potential fear of the gun lobby and loss of their 2nd Amendment rights.  The thinking of the American public has changed and we need responsible reform to our gun laws.                             
     In today's New York Times, former Congresswomen Gabrielle Giffords wrote a powerful Op-Ed blaming the senators for failing their constituents.  She writes "I am asking for mothers to stop these lawmakers at the grocery store and tell them, 'You’ve lost my vote.' I am asking activists to unsubscribe from these senators’ e-mail lists and to stop giving them money. I’m asking citizens to go to their offices and say, 'You’ve disappointed me, and there will be consequences.'"
     I wrote in a previous post that these politicians need to stand up to the gun lobby and prove they have no power anymore.  Clearly they are still afraid and are hiding behind the 2nd Amendment to justify their cowardice and lack of a moral compass.  Our legislators who voted against the proposal need to feel the wrath of the American voters, 90 percent of whom disagree with them.  They demonstrated once again why our congress has such a dismal approval rating.  This failure to act enraged me so genuinely because it further demonstrates the disconnect legislators have with the people they represent and their allegiance to lobbies in Washington.  The American people need to take responsibility and hold their legislators accountable in 2014.  We need to show them that the actions at Sandy Hook deserve a responsible reform to a broken system in order to prevent something like this from ever happening again.    

1 comment:

  1. Mike from SeekonkApril 27, 2013 at 3:30 PM

    The defeat of the Manchin-Toomey amendment begs the question: Why not establish term limits in Congress? Our senators & representatives want to be "legislators for life." Because they live in fear of some powerful lobby (like the NRA) supporting a primary challenger that would unseat them, our people in Washington, D.C. vote the way they're told. The Founding Fathers decided to limit the term of the president because they didn't want anymore kings-maybe we should do the same for our congresspeople.