Neil McCabe

A procedural twist means the anti-gun rights agenda of President Barack Obama and the Democrats was not stopped when, April 17th, a series of amendments at the heart of the bill to ban so-called assault weapons was defeated.

“But make no mistake: this debate is not over. This is not the end of the fight. Republicans are in an unsustainable position – crosswise with nine out of ten Americans,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D.-Nev.). The nine-out-of-ten quote refers to polls that show overwhelming support for the expansion of pre-gun purchase background checks sponsored by Sen. Patrick J. Toomey (R.-Pa.) and Sen. Joseph Manchin III (D.-W.V.), which was written with major input by Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D.-N.Y.).

“Unfortunately, the overwhelming majority of Senate Republicans ignored the voices of an overwhelming majority of Americans,” he said.

“Yesterday, the families of gun violence victims watched as Republicans defeated a common-sense proposal to expand background checks,” he said. “Democrats will consider all of our options on how to proceed with this legislation.”

This is not an idle threat. I am not sure if I can explain this correctly. When the Toomey-Manchin background checks amendment failed April 17th, 55-47, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D.-Nev.) switched his vote to the prevailing side making the vote 54-46, which is the final tally. With Reid now on the prevailing side, he then laid a motion to reconsider upon the table--where it sits waiting.

Normally, there is a two-step process to Senate votes. First, there is the motion to proceed, followed by the actual vote. When you hear about a filibuster, most times it is in regards to the motion to proceed, and the 60 vote-threshold is on closing floor debate, which then leads to the agenda item that passes or fails on a simple majority.

To speed the process along, Reid and the Democrats skipped the motion to precede vote, because with the cooperation of the Republicans, he received unanimous consent that each of the amendments to the anti-gun rights bill require a 60-vote majority to pass.

The 60-vote threshold vital to Democrats, as much as it is to Republicans, because once it is clear the tally will fall short of the 60, it is easier for Democrats needing a pro-gun vote get a “cover vote.” Similarly, Republicans needing getting pressure from gun control lobbyists get same free play without affecting the outcome.

Neil McCabe

Neil W. McCabe is a journalist working in Washington. He was a senior reporter for the Human Events newspaper and for many years a reporter for The Pilot, Boston's Catholic paper. In 2009, he deployed to Iraq with the Army as a combat historian for 15 months.