Rich Galen

This column is about the vote on Wednesday in the U.S. Senate on the amendment to the gun control bill which had as its two main sponsors Democrat Joe Manchin (WVa) and Republican Pat Toomey (Pa).

The effect of the amendment would have been, among other things, to have increased background checks on people buying guns to include gun shows and internet sales.

I don't want to discuss the merits of the amendment; I want to chat about why it failed in the face of overwhelming popular support.

The vote on the amendment failed - as only the verb "to fail" can be defined in Washington, because it got only 54 votes out of the 100 Senators voting. Under what is known as a "unanimous consent agreement," each amendment was to have been brought up in turn and each needed 60 votes (to stop a potential filibuster) to be included in the final bill.

Even in Our Nation's Capital 54 does not equal 60.

Four Senators from each party crossed over and voted with the other guys. Democrats who voted against the amendment were

Mark Pryor of Arkansas,
Max Baucus of Montana,
Mark Begich of Alaska, and
Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota

Republicans who voted for the amendment were:

Susan Collins of Maine,
John McCain of Arizona,
Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, and
Mark Kirk of Illinois

If you look at the "how did they vote" link on the Secret Decoder Ring page, you will see that Harry Reid also voted against the amendment.

He changed his vote from Yea to Nay so that, under the Senate rules, he will be eligible to "move to reconsider" it at some later time. The rules require that only a Senator who voted on the prevailing side (in this case to defeat the amendment) can make such a motion.

See how much fun this is already?

Yesterday, Reid announced he was yanking the main gun control bill from the floor. I suspect this was for a number of reasons, including the notion that this amendment failed there is no chance of the underlying bill getting 60 votes.

A. Three of the four Democrats (Pryor, Baucus, and Begich) are up for re-election next year in very red states.

B. Even relatively safe Ds who are up for reelection in 2014 didn't want to walk the plank on another gun vote that wasn't going to pass anyway.

C. President Barack Obama has had a tough enough week already and didn't need to have the Capital Punditocracy point out, yet again, how bad he is at negotiating difficult issues.

Rich Galen

Rich Galen has been a press secretary to Dan Quayle and Newt Gingrich. Rich Galen currently works as a journalist and writes at