It seems very odd that President Obama has made gun control the signature issue of his second term, so far. He can’t possibly achieve any significant legislation; a few tweaks to the background check system, maybe, but there is no chance of getting any meaningful gun control through the House. The House Democrats aren’t even trying.
So it also seems strange that all eyes are on the Senate, where Harry Reid will unveil some sort of gun legislation–no one knows what, exactly–on Thursday. The party’s left-wing base is lining up behind the bill, sight unseen. Today the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee sent out this breathless email on Thursday’s Senate vote:
BREAKING: 48 HOURS TO STOP REPUBLICAN FILIBUSTER ON GUNS
John — We don’t have much time so we’ll make this quick:
The Senate will vote THIS THURSDAY on whether to take on gun violence. Republicans are already threatening to filibuster. They don’t think that we — or the victims of Newtown — deserve a vote. We need 100,000 people in order to prove them wrong.
Demand Republicans allow a vote on expanding background checks: Click here to automatically add your name >>
Thanks for acting quickly,
However, as Jennifer Rubin notes, it doesn’t appear that the Republicans intend to filibuster. (I suppose they can’t be sure until they see the bill.) What is odd about this is that a filibuster occurs in the context of a cloture motion, for which 60 votes are required. “Cloture” means cutting off debate, but the Democrats aren’t planning on having a debate–any debate. They apparently intend, in keeping with their recent practice, that senators should read Reid’s bill and vote on it simultaneously. It is the Republicans, not the Democrats, who would relish a debate on the Left’s harebrained gun control schemes.
And it is Senate Republicans, not Democrats, who are happy to put their votes on record. The senators who wish the whole issue would go away are red state Democrats like Mary Landrieu, Max Baucus, Mark Begich, Kay Hagan and Mark Pryor. For those up for re-election next year, a vote in favor of gun control could be the last nail in the coffin.
So why is President Obama making gun control his number one issue, when it has zero chance of becoming law, and the political impact is negative for some of his own senators? I can think of only two reasons. First, he wants to whip the Democrats’ base into a frenzy in hopes of capturing the House next year, and the base hates guns. I think this motivation accounts for much of what Obama does, but does it really make sense to endanger Democratic control over the Senate, in hopes of a long-shot victory in the House? One wouldn’t think so. Second, Obama may view the gun issue purely as a distraction: anything is better than talking about the economy. Or Obamacare. Or Benghazi. Or Iran. Or North Korea. Maybe he arrives at gun control through a process of elimination. It isn’t a great theory, but it’s the best I can come up with.