We are all friends here. Or should be; for the laughter of Mordor will be our only reward, if we quarrel.
-Gandalf, from “The Two Towers” by JRR Tolkien
Chortles undoubtedly rose high in Fairfax, Virginia, along with slapping hands and champaign glasses, after a Republican-led filibuster blocked the much negotiated gun reform bill from coming to a vote. They won. The NRA’s lobbying efforts paid off. Not only did they scare all but a couple of Republicans into voting against popular, common-sense gun legislation, but they also managed to spook four Democratic senators into doing their bidding.
The legislation was not nearly as strong as it should have been — it did not contain an assault weapons ban which survived Congress back in 1994. Nor did it clean up all the loopholes in background checks. But even this watered-down bill could not survive the Senate. And the bill was bipartisan, negotiated into mediocrity by one of those Senate gangs. And yet, it still failed.
Grieving parents from Newtown could not convince politicians that strengthening gun background checks nationwide was the right thing to do. Indeed, the monied fiends of the NRA dismissed them as props for the anti-gun lobby.
And yet, by any logical and sane standard, the legislation should have passed. It “failed” by a vote of 54-46. Math tells you that there were enough yes votes to pass the bill. But math hasn’t lived in the Senate chambers for years now.
These days, everything needs 60 votes in the Senate to pass. This arbitrary number is the threshold for clearing a filibuster, the arcane procedure in the Senate were one or more senators can stop any bill they don’t like and force it to jump through this extra hoop in order to pass. If it had passed the filibuster vote, then a “normal” vote would have been taken and the bill would have passed. We know that it would have passed. It “failed” by a vote of 54-46.
This bullshit is exactly what I feared would happen when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid agreed to weak-willed reforms to the filibuster rules. The “reforms” adopted have done nothing to stop the continued abuse of the procedure. Republicans continue to wield it with wild abandon. Markos Moulitsas took Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) to task for complaining about filibuster abuse after the death of the gun legislation. And for good reason, too, because she was one of the old guard senators who opposed stronger filibuster reforms in January. Chickens, meet the roost.
Democratic Senators, I’ll spell it out one more time. Comity is a myth. It’s a comforting myth, like the fabled nuclear family of the 1950s, but it does not exist. It is a misty ideal, one completely divorced from reality. There is no comity. Republicans will use every trick in the book to hold things up. They will simply not allow something that they hate, which they know will pass, to come for a final vote of passage.
Gridlock, gridlock, gridlock, gridlock, gridlock, gridlock, gridlock. That is what bowing to the fictitious ideal of comity has brought us.
So while the Senate remains gridlocked, the NRA rules. And laughs.
© 2013, gar. All rights reserved.