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The Gun Vote

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

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.

Of all the post-mortems about the vote on the Manchin-Toomey amendment, the line that made the most sense to me came from Megan McArdle writing in the yesterday:

"Gun owners care about gun rights all the time, but the rest of the population mostly cares about gun control in the wake of a high-profile tragedy."

My own feeling is Obama handled this very badly. A comprehensive gun control bill should have been brought to the floor as soon as the Congress reconvened in early January - shortly after the horror in Newtown.

Democrats had retained the White House and the U.S. Senate and they picked up a handful of seats in the U.S. House in the November elections. The events in Connecticut were still fresh in our minds. The NRA would not have had time to crank up its impressive public affairs machine.


As an example, the Patriot Act was introduced on October 23, 2001; passed the House on October 24, 2001; passed the Senate on October 25, 2001 and was signed into law by President George W. Bush on October 26, 2001.

Elapsed time between the attacks on 9/11 and the adoption of the Patriot Act?

45 days.

Ace writers for, Jim Vandehei and Mike Allen published a piece last night saying there were two Barack Obamas. One is the in-your-face Obama that attempts to bully his opponents; the other is the conciliatory Obama that sups with GOP Senators and lunches with the House Republicans.

"Both," they wrote, "are flailing" (which I first read as "failing" and I'll bet that's how it was first written).

The next big thing will be the immigration bill. It has a reasonable chance of winning but, they wrote, "one influential Democratic adviser told us, 'that's only because the President has largely stayed on the sidelines.'"


On the Secret Decoder Ring page today: Links to the "how they voted" page from the Library of Congress, to the Daily Beast piece and to the Vandehei/Allen article, and the full text of the "recommit" rule.

Also a very sweet Mullfoto of granddaughter #1 from Easter weekend.

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