Rand Paul’s Gun Control Filibuster Gains More Support
Rand Paul’s threatened filibuster of the proposed Senate Gun Control Bill is gaining steam:
Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul’s threat to filibuster any new gun restrictions is gathering steam, as a dozen of his Republican colleagues have now signed onto his plan.
The Kentucky Republican and Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Mike Lee (R-Utah ) first wrote to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid late last month to warn him of their intention to try to tie up the Senate if, as planned, Reid moved forward with legislation that would expand background checks and attempt to crack down on interstate gun trafficking.
Reid is expected to bring a gun-control bill to the floor as early as next week, or perhaps the following week, and Paul is renewing his vow to try to block the measure. Paul’s follow-up letter, obtained by POLITICO, bears Monday’s date and is signed by 13 Republicans, including fellow potential 2016 presidential aspirant Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) — who signed on shortly after Paul’s first threat was issued — and National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman Jerry Moran of Kansas.
While Paul gained a new measure of fame among libertarian-minded voters on the right and left during a recent filibuster sparked by the administration’s policy of targeted drone strikes, Reid has an ace in the hole. A new Senate rule would allow him to circumvent a filibuster on the motion to proceed to the gun bill by promising each party two amendments on the legislation. Under that scenario, Paul and his allies would still get a chance to raise their objections on the floor for hours on end, but they couldn’t stop the Senate from starting debate on the bill.
Reid’s aides have discussed that option, but they haven’t yet said that they’ll use it. Reid may be able to break a filibuster with bipartisan support, which would obviate the need to do an end run around Paul’s group. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) has said he won’t support a filibuster if Reid promises to allow for amendments on the floor.
In the letter due to be sent Monday, a carbon copy of the first missive, Paul and his expanded group of allies reiterate that they “intend to oppose any legislation that would infringe on the American people’s constitutional right to bear arms, or their ability to exercise this right without being subjected to government surveillance.”
So, be prepared for some fireworks when this bill comes up.
More broadly, though, it does appear that the NRA and other gun rights groups are succeeding in their bid to block gun legislation in Congress:
Over the past two weeks, while Congress has been in recess, Begich said he was approached repeatedly by constituents who echoed NRA views, telling him not to, in his words, “mess with our gun rights” or “ban anything.”
The NRA’s recent successes on Capitol Hill — as well as a string of victories in state legislatures across the country — demonstrate the effectiveness of the group’s strategy to overcome a post-Newtown tilt toward gun control. The organization has drafted and circulated legislation, mobilized its members and continued to put pressure on politically vulnerable lawmakers. At the same time, groups attempting to promote stricter gun- control measures have faltered.
New restrictions that a couple of months ago seemed possible, even likely, such as bans on assault weapons and universal background checks on gun purchases, are now in doubt.
“The NRA is one of the most important groups in my state,” said Begich, one of several Democrats from conservative states who are up for reelection next year. He and others like him are the swing voters in the gun debate in the Senate, where deliberation over new legislation is expected to begin this month.
The gun rights group has suffered some serious setbacks since the December school shooting. New gun limits have passed in reliably liberal Maryland and New York and in Colorado and Connecticut, where two of the most recent shooting rampages occurred.
But even gun-control advocates acknowledge that the NRA is getting the better of them, both in Congress and state capitals across the country.
The NRA’s congressional operation is so effective that one of the gun lobby’s most outspoken critics, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), initially signed on as a sponsor of the NRA-supported background check bill. Blumenthal said he had no direct contact with the NRA when he signed on to the measure but had been drawn by the idea of a bipartisan initiative to improve background checks.
On Friday, Blumenthal withdrew his support, saying in an interview that he was no longer comfortable with the bill because of “serious unintended consequences” related to provisions governing the mentally ill.
The NRA strategy has stretched into the states, as well. For instance, the group dispatched a lobbyist to Minnesota for much of the past three months because lawmakers there were considering expanded background checks and other measures.
Spurred by e-mail alerts from the group, NRA members and other gun rights activists jammed legislative committee rooms, deluged lawmakers with e-mails and phone calls — and succeeded in killing proposals that were once widely expected to pass.
“I was sabotaged by the NRA,” said state Rep. Michael Paymar, a St. Paul Democrat who authored the gun-control package he thought had a good shot at passing the liberal state House and Senate.
The Minnesota measures had been supported by the White House, with President Obama paying a visit in January and Vice President Biden calling legislators in March.
But their efforts were not enough to counteract gun rights advocates. NRA alerts warned that the background checks proposal would result in increased costs and could lead to the establishment of a government gun registry, while achieving no provable reduction in the crime.
Republican state Rep. Tony Cornish said he received 2,897 e-mails about the bills while they were being considered last month. “Only five were in favor,” he said.
Now, the legislation gathering the most support in Minnesota is an NRA-backed bill, similar in some ways to the one being pushed by the group in Congress, designed to improve reporting of mental illness.
In Congress and in some states, the NRA has already found ways to expand gun rights in the months since Newtown. The group successfully won congressional approval for new rules to ease importation of firearms that contradicted what Obama requested in the January launch of his anti-violence initiative.
This was, I would submit, completely predictable.