The failure of the Senate compromise of Manchin, left, and Toomey doomed the entire gun control bill, Rothenberg writes.
He is correct, of course, that the filibuster and the structure of the Senate exaggerate the influence of the minority. And that’s by design. The rules were created to protect the minority and to require a broader consensus than a mere majority to enact controversial legislation. It’s important to remember that the Senate and the filibuster don’t allow a minority to enact legislation, only to stop it from passing.
“Try explaining [the need for a 60-vote supermajority] to a mother whose child was gunned down in a first-grade classroom in Connecticut,” Lizza wrote in his piece.
That would be hard to do, of course, possibly impossible. But is that the test of whether a political process is a good one or whether a legislative outcome is wise? I don’t know why an individual’s grief, however awful, should be more important than a system that protects the minority.
Some of the blame for the failure of the Senate to pass anything has to rest with those who chose how the Senate would address legislative proposals to respond to the Newtown shootings.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s base bill could have been one of the proposals most likely to pass, such as the mental-health funding proposal offered by Sens. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., (which received 95 votes) or the gun-trafficking amendment of Sens. Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., and Susan Collins, R-Maine.
That way, even if the most controversial proposals failed, the Senate would have been able to pass a bill.
Instead, the Nevada Democrat introduced legislation that had little or no chance to pass. When the Manchin-Toomey amendment failed, the entire bill was doomed. And because of that, possible compromises and amendments that could have passed suddenly became irrelevant.
Reid’s strategy didn’t doom Manchin-Toomey, but it doomed possible compromises on gun trafficking, school safety and more money for criminal prosecution and mental health.
So while 45 senators prevented passage of a bill expanding background checks and 48 senators defeated the Grassley amendment, which included many of the provisions of Manchin-Toomey, Reid probably is most responsible for the Senate’s inability to pass any bill to respond to the Newtown shootings.
If you want to know whether any “politics” went into Reid’s decision, you’ll have to figure that out for yourself.
Stuart Rothenberg (@stupolitics) is editor of the Rothenberg Political Report (rothenbergpoliticalreport.com). Read more at his blog, Rothenblog (blogs.rollcall.com/Rothenblog).
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.