So … you thought the U.S. Senate was some sort of bastion of democracy, where elected representatives perform the will of the people?
Five senators, all of them Republicans, have decided that the body shall not vote on whether to approve legislation that its sponsors think would curtail gun violence in the United States. And this procedural blockage is being done against the will of people who polls indicate support overwhelmingly a law that requires universal background checks on anyone seeking to purchase a firearm.
Some polls put that approval number at around 90 percent. President Obama said the other day that 90 percent is about as “close to unanimity” as you’ll get in this country on any issue.
But the Senate isn’t going to vote on this package because these five GOP yahoos won’t allow it. They are: Marco Rubio of Florida, Rand Paul of Kentucky, Ted Cruz of Texas, Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma and Mike Lee of Utah. The first three are possible presidential candidates in 2016 and they are tea party golden boys. I don’t know much about Lee. Inhofe is just a contrarian.
The Filibustering Five are going to block with a procedural motion disguised as a filibuster, except they won’t block it using the talk-til-you-drop method, which Paul used to argue recently against U.S. drone policy. No, these guys just won’t allow a vote. The Democratic majority needs 60 votes to break the so-called filibuster, but they don’t have it. Thus, these five senators are going to stop the entire chamber from doing the people’s business.
I understand what’s going on. The National Rifle Association has argued forcefully – and apparently persuasively – against these limitations, even the universal background check provision, which the NRA used to support.
The NRA has targeted – no pun intended … really – lawmakers who oppose them on gun control. Members of the Senate are frightened at the political price they would pay if they support background checks or other sensible restrictions that do not violate the Constitution’s Second Amendment that guarantees Americans the right to “keep and bear arms.”
The issue really so much about whether gun-control legislation should become law. It’s about whether a small minority of lawmakers can gum up the legislative system the way it’s being done by these five nimrods. Senate rules allow them to do it. That is to the shame of the body and those run the place.
Barack Obama said during his State of the Union speech in January that the victims of gun violence “deserve a vote” on this legislation. The public agrees with him. The five senators who are blocking that effort need to listen to the public – not the deep-pocketed special interest group that has terrorized them.