Yesterday 16 Republican Senators, including both Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker from Tennessee, joined Democrats in voting to begin debate on legislation expanding background checks on gun purchases. With 68 votes to begin debate, a threatened GOP filibuster was stopped before it started.
Grassroots reaction was both swift and pointed.
Grassfire.com wrote, “Sen. Harry Reid’s gun-control legislation has cleared the first hurdle … bringing the creation of a national gun registry and the outright confiscation of your firearms closer to reality.”
The TN Campaign for Liberty wrote, “After having dinner with President Obama last night, Senator Lamar Alexander then voted this morning to advance Obama’s gun control scheme.”
Listening to the critiques one might assume these Senators are, even now, fueling up the black choppers and SUVs to dispatch them for quiet conversations with Americans about their guns.
But what did they do, exactly?
They did not vote for a bill that infringed on the 2nd Amendment Rights of Americans. They voted to begin debate on a bill that would infringe on the 2nd Amendment Rights of Americans. Support for having the debate is not the same as supporting the bill.
For example, Grassfire.com notes both the NRA and the ACLU believe the Toomey-Manchin bill is unconstitutional. This is a powerful fact which deserves attention. There are voices respected by both sides of the political divide opposing the bill.
However, a letter issued by Chris Cox of the NRA stating they would negatively “score” cloture votes on the issue was misread by many. The vote in question is not today’s vote but an upcoming cloture vote needed to move the bill to an actual vote. Even the Lefties at Slate got that one wrong. Bottom line is that while the NRA is opposed to the bill, they are not beating up Senators who voted to debate it.
And neither am I.
There are any number of folks eager to have this debate; eager to have Democrats and liberal Republicans explain how what they are doing passes constitutional muster. They want amendments and recorded votes for later use against 2nd Amendment haters and gun detractors. Some of those folks voted for cloture yesterday to make that reality possible. That does not mean they will vote for a necessary second cloture vote to close debate and move to voting for passage or defeat on the actual bill.
In fact, some Senators voted for cloture to open debate while remaining committed to opposing Toomey-Manchin and the ongoing assault on the 2nd Amendment.
Oklahoma’s Tob Coburn is one.
Lamar Alexander of Tennessee is another. He said, “I’ll examine each amendment to determine whether it strengthens or infringes upon our Second Amendment rights … The Toomey-Manchin proposal to expand background checks in my opinion doesn’t meet that test and I will vote against it.”
So is Tennessee’s Bob Corker who said, “I don’t understand why any senator wouldn’t want to debate these issues, but in the end, I will not support any legislation that violates our Second Amendment rights.”
These Senators voted to begin debate. They were not signalling their support for the measure being debated. They certainly don’t seem to be “advanc[ing] Obama’s gun control scheme.”
It may be that when it comes time to vote on the actual bill that one or more of them will vote for a bad piece of legislation. If they do, I will be the first to call them out on it. But this is not that vote. Nor can it be used to predict a future vote.
For that, we should watch the debate process, note the amendments offered, the questions asked, the follow-ups and the positions staked out. Eventually we will need to watch a cloture vote – the one to close debate. If that one passes, no sure thing as many do not, the actual vote on the measure will be the defining one.
To now excoriate Senators for voting to do what the Senate is supposed to do – consider and debate – seems also to be bad behavior. I cannot and will not condone it or participate.
That having been said, I’m sure there are any number of my friends who will disagree with me. I look forward to your thoughts in the comment section.