Just as victims murdered in mass shoots have seemingly become collateral damage in the issue of gun control, he highly-touted bipartisan compromise on background checks looks as if it will become political collateral damage — due to immigration reform.
The bipartisan effort to expand background checks will not have the votes to advance in the Senate today, according to one of the architects of the deal.
“We will not get the votes today,” Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., told NBC News.
Potential supporters, Republican Sens. Jeff Flake, of Arizona, and Florida’s Marco Rubio, could not risk a stand on background checks in the face of opposition from their conservative base because they are already leading on immigration, Manchin said.
So once again — for the present, at least — it seems like politics wins. Fear of the conservative base. The little kids who died such tragic and terrifying deaths, the wishes of police chiefs, etc? Just say a few words of regret, legalistic spin, and maybe a phrase or two heard on talk radio and that’ll cover you.
This seems like it STILL holds and could be proven true.
And trending isn’t towards its passage:
Sources also told NBC News that the effort’s proponents are 4 to 5 votes short, a gulf that could widen if Democrats in conservative states decide not to support the measure.
Meanwhile, polls show the impact of the spin-control arguments used to battle background checks — an issue right after the Newtown murders that many pundits and politicians predicted would be the “at least” policy item that would pass. But then something happened: the NRA opposed it and it became part of the 24/7 partisan wars. Partisan unity has a short shelf life in America.
And as the issue returned once more to be one more partisan issue with all the hot button pushing that entailed, the unity and grief over Newtown and seeming desire to try to make a change has started to wane — which proves the drag-it-out, run-out-the-clock strategy of gun control foes does work in America’s political culture.
Perhaps helping explain Democrats’ problems, an AP-GfK poll this month showed that 49 percent of Americans support stricter gun laws. That was down from 58 percent who said so in January — a month after the December killings of 20 children and six aides at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school propelled gun violence into a national issue.
Just over half the public — 52 percent — expressed disapproval in the new survey of how President Barack Obama has handled gun laws. Weeks after the Newtown slayings, Obama made a call for near universal background checks the heart of his gun control plan.
“Every once and awhile we are confronted with an issue that should transcend politics,” Obama said in an interview that aired Wednesday on NBC’s “Today” show. “And now’s the time for us to take some measure of action that’s going to prevent some of these tragedies from happening again.”
In a climactic day, the Senate planned to hold eight other votes Wednesday besides the one on background checks, all of them amendments to a broad gun control measure.
They included Democratic proposals to ban assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines, which are expected to lose; a Republican proposal requiring states to honor other states’ permits allowing concealed weapons, which faces a close vote; and a GOP substitute for the overall gun measure.
The concealed weapons amendment, seen by advocates as protecting gun rights, was vehemently opposed by gun control groups, who say it would allow more guns into states with stricter firearms laws.
The votes were coming a day after former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, badly injured in a 2011 mass shooting in Tucson, Ariz., and her husband, Mark Kelly, tried galvanizing gun control support by visiting Capitol Hill and attending a private lunch with Democratic senators. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., called the lunch — senators said it included emotional speeches from lawmakers — “as moving as any” he has attended.
But if the grieving devastated parents of Newtown kids wasn’t enough to make politicos look beyond their NRA contributions and conservative base, why would Giffords make much difference? And the tragedy of the Boston Marathon bombings will diminish some of the press attention gun control would get in the national consciousness as it goes down to yet one more defeat. The silverlining: it will come up for a vote and won’t be filibustered..but then there’s no need for anyone to filibuster since it doesn’t have the votes.
But the issue of background checks back for another vote, to be sure. And the issue will arise again, as there’s more “collateral damage.” Or, until a measure emerges that is so watered down that the NRA can claim victory and politicos who oppose gun control can claim they passed gun control.
Yes this does seem to hold.
*** Manchin’s office walks back the senator’s remarks: But Manchin’s press office just released this statement: “Sen. Manchin remains optimistic and hopeful that if Senators and the American people read the bill, they will support his commonsense approach… So far Sen. Manchin has managed to garner support from an A-rated NRA member and three Republican Senators as well as 90 percent of his own party. With a record like that, I see no reason to bet against Sen. Manchin today. He will continue to explain his bill to his colleagues and anyone with concerns until the minute they vote.”
*** Striking that something polling 90% can’t get 60 votes: As things stand right now, per NBC’s Kasie Hunt, the MOST support the measure could get is 60 votes — if you count all 55 Democrats and the five Republicans who support it or who haven’t said they oppose it (Collins, Kirk, Toomey, McCain, Ayotte). But here’s the rub: Not all Democrats, especially those from red states, will back it. In fact, sources tell NBC’s O’Donnell that the amendment will likely fall four or five votes short — and maybe more if others see it going down. Given the public opinion polls supporting background checks, it’s striking the measure won’t get 60 votes. Just read today’s New York Times piece on convicted felons who are able to purchase weapons online. “With no requirements for background checks on most private transactions, a Times examination found, Armslist and similar sites function as unregulated bazaars, where the essential anonymity of the Internet allows unlicensed sellers to advertise scores of weapons and people legally barred from gun ownership to buy them.” But senators are realists, and some of those fence-sitters probably were swayed NOT to take what they believed would be a risky vote because the House was unlikely to pass it. The thinking being: Why cast a vote that will create a potential political problem when the bill’s chances of ACTUALLY becoming law are so remote?
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Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.