Wednesday, April 17, 2013

This Is Proof... That Something Must Change.

Well, it happened. As expected, gun safety reform died in Congress today. Despite the best efforts of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Searchlight Strong), and despite even a handful of conservative Blue Dog Democrats and Republicans supporting a compromise amendment to Reid's bill, enough Republicans (along with a handful of super-conservative Blue Dog Democrats) stood together to sustain a filibuster. Not even that compromise amendment could get an up-or-down vote today. Steve Benen has more on today's EPIC FAIL in Congress.

Almost exactly four months after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary, the Senate took up a bipartisan compromise on firearm background checks -- the heart of the larger effort to reduce gun violence. It was a watered-down compromise written by two conservative senators, but it enjoyed the support of a majority of the Senate and the overwhelming support of the American public.

And yet, this afternoon, it died at the hands of a Republican filibuster anyway.

As the dust settled, a 54-member majority supported the Manchin/Toomey amendment, while 46 opposed it. Because of Republican obstructionist tactics, proponents needed a 60-vote supermajority and came up far short. (Technically, it would have been 55-45, but Majority Leader Harry Reid had to switch his vote for procedural reasons.)

A woman in the Senate gallery shouted "shame on you" at the members below, but she, like the Newtown families, Gabrielle Giffords, and 90% of the country were ignored. [...]

Think about this: everything was in place for success. This one simple idea -- close the gun-show loophole and apply background checks to online sales -- had all of the pieces lined up in its favor. The White House invested considerable energy in giving the proposal the best possible chance to prevail; the American mainstream strongly endorsed it; the memory of national tragedy still weighed heavily on everyone's minds; and the only meaningful organization lobbying against it has become a national laughingstock.

"If our democracy is working the way it's supposed to," the bipartisan compromise should have passed while barely breaking a sweat.

Is it not time, then, to look anew at whether our democracy has stopped working the way it's supposed to?

Ouch. He's so harsh... Yet so accurate.

And this takes us back to an issue that's been simmering since last fall. Since November, progressives have been clamoring for filibuster reform. Yet because Senator Reid was concerned about "rocking the boat" too much and threatening the collegial reputation of the US Senate, Senator Reid initially hesitated to push all that hard on filibuster reform. He settled on a "gentlemen's agreement" with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) to allow for a few minor tweaks to the filibuster.

That was supposed to solve matters. But instead, it's only resulted in even more G-O-TEA obstructionism. Cabinet nominations have been delayed. Judicial nominations have been stalled. And yes, bills with well over 80% public support have been killed without even a proper vote.

Moments ago, several gun violence victims joined President Obama just outside The White House to denounce this EPIC FAIL.

He expressed his outrage, and so did the victims. In fact, one Newtown dad vowed to press on.

"What happened in Newtown can happen anywhere. In any instant, any dad in America could be in my shoes. No one should feel the pain. No one should feel our pain or the pain felt by the tens of thousands of people who have lost loved ones to senseless gun violence," [Mark] Barden said. "That's why we're here. Two weeks ago, twelve of us from Newtown came to meet with U.S. denators and have a conversation about how to bring common-sense solutions to the issues of gun violence. ... We met with dozens of Democrats and Republicans and shared with them pictures of our children, spouses, parents who lost their lives on December 14. Expanded background checks wouldn't have saved our loved ones but, still, we came to support a bipartisan proposal from two senators, both with 'A' ratings from the NRA, a common-sense proposal supported by 90 percent of Americans."

Barden described the background checks bill as "a proposal that will save lives without interfering with the rights of responsible, law-abiding gun owners." He thanked the politicians who supported the legislation and vowed he and other relatives of gun violence victims would continue fighting for it.

"We'll return home now disappointed but not defeated. We return home with a determination that change will happen. Maybe not today, but it will happen. It will happen soon. We've always known this would be a long road and we don't have the luxury of turning back. We will keep moving forward and build public support for common sense solutions in the areas of mental health, school safety, and gun safety," said Barden. "We take strength from the children and loved ones that we lost and we carry a great faith in the American people. ... Every day as more people are killed in this country because of gun violence our determination grows stronger."

Mark Barden lost his 7 year old son in the Newtown Massacre. And he doesn't want to see any more children die just so gun manufacturers can pad their profit margins even more. He was joined by Gabrielle Giffords, herself a surviving victim of the Tucson Massacre. And they were not alone out there.

In fact, there's a broad consensus among the American people for gun safety reform. Yet because gun industry lobbyists were able to bribe convince just enough Senators to abuse the arcane and antiquated rules of the institution, even the most modest compromises of reform were killed in Congress today. Something must change. And today is only the beginning of that change.

As we discussed earlier today, Senator Reid did what he could to advance this bill and the cause. But ultimately, he must realize that the arcane and antiquated Senate rules (i.e. the filibuster) only helped opponents in killing reform. And the Senators who hid behind those very arcane and antiquated Senate rules (i.e. the filibuster) should be ashamed of themselves for misusing Senate rules to please their gun lobby sugar daddies benefactors while ignoring the many lives lost to senseless gun violence.

Something must change. And today is only the beginning of that change. We can't forget what happened today, but what happened today doesn't have to last forever.

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