To no one’s surprise, at least no one following politics closely, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) effectively dumped the assault weapons ban in the gun bill that will go to the floor.
What is more, it is not certain even a robust background check bill will make it to the Senate floor:
Senior Senate Democratic aides called talk of the ban’s demise “premature,” but admitted that it is unlikely to be included as part of the broader package, which could be introduced by Reid as early as this week.
Still unresolved is what Reid’s final bill might say about expanding the gun background check program. Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) is working with other Democrats to find potential Republican co-sponsors for a revised bill that would permit exceptions for firearm exchanges between family members or close friends. But talks have been hampered by disagreements over whether to establish a record-keeping system for non-commercial gun transactions.
There are some takeaways here, as they apply to the media and to the president.
Virtually the entire press corps frothed at the mouth when the president, grandstanding at the State of the Union speech, thundered that a list of gun violence victims “deserve” a vote on these sorts of measures. (“Gaby Giffords deserves a vote. The families of Newtown deserve a vote. The families of Aurora deserve a vote. The families of Oak Creek, and Tucson, and Blacksburg and the countless other communities ripped open by gun violence – they deserve a simple vote.”)
Reid doesn’t think so. And in fact no one “deserves” a vote on anything; the Senate leader decided he couldn’t prevail upon his members to cast a vote. Cowardly? Maybe. Or maybe the votes aren’t there and to maximize his chances on other measures he took the assault weapons ban out. That is the nature of the legislative process. But at least we can dispense with the notion that Republicans are standing in the way of assault weapons ban legislation.
Indeed, this is further evidence that getting the Senate to actually cast votes is very helpful to the GOP. It clarifies where Dems really stand (e.g. high taxes, more spending) and alerts the Democratic base that a lot of what Reid and Schumer say is for show.
This is also a timely reminder about how lacking in influence is the president, no matter how the media slobbers over his speeches. And viewers and readers should beware of pundits imploring them to take seriously what the president says in grand addresses. This is not a president who is good at persuading the opposition, or even his own side. And this is only a few months into his second term; the problem will worsen for him over time.
If some robust form of background check does not get onto the floor, it will be particularly humiliating for the president and disappointing to his base. Perhaps the president can learn from his majority leader and engage in some good old fashioned horse trading. It will be good experience for other issues down the road.