Senators Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin have never really been what you’d consider stalwarts of the Second Amendment community. Oh sure, Manchin’s cut a couple of campaign ads where he’s shooting guns, but he’s also put forth a universal background check bill with the help of Pennsylvania Republican Pat Toomey.
Sinema, meanwhile, didn’t sign on to a 2019 attempt to ban so-called assault weapons introduced by Dianne Feinstein, but she’s backed universal background checks and even requiring a license to possess a firearm in the past.
The fate of Joe Biden’s gun bans is now in the uncertain hands of these two senators, along with the rest of Biden’s legislative proposals, because they’re only two Democrat senators who are pledging that they won’t vote to get rid of the legislative filibuster.
The Left is launching a full-scale assault on the filibuster, with editorials and columns appearing every hour pushing the idea that the last remaining check on pure majoritarianism needs to be axed from the Senate rules in order to save the nation. In addition, many interest groups on the Left have joined the fight, including the gun control group Brady, which is actively advocating to nuke the filibuster, declaring “51 is Enough.”
If the Senate were to take up legislation to prevent gun violence tomorrow, even legislation that more than 90% of Americans support, its fate could be sealed before a single vote is cast. Why? Because even though 51 Senators make up a majority, the current rules require that 60 Senators agree to even vote on a bill. This arcane rule is known as the “procedural filibuster” and it has been used to block critical progress throughout American history, from civil rights to life-saving gun violence prevention policies.
Let’s be clear, the price of inaction is unacceptable: tens of thousands of Americans die every single year because of Congress’ inability to pass meaningful laws to prevent gun violence. It is past time for the Senate to reform and end the procedural filibuster.
Brady didn’t seem to mind the filibuster a few years ago when Democrats were using the tactic to push for votes on gun control measures in the Senate. Of course, Democrats were in the minority then, and the filibuster is a tool of the minority. The reason why Brady wasn’t opposed to filibuster in 2016 is because Republicans controlled Congress. In 2017, if the GOP had nuked the legislative filibuster as Brady is now demanding Democrats do, they would have passed national right-to-carry reciprocity as one of their first agenda items. Do you think Brady would have been making a principled argument in favor of the Republicans’ right to do so?
Of course not. This isn’t some sort of principled stand on the part of Brady. It’s craven opportunism, and it’s the type of thing that I’d like to think would stiffen the spine of the senators from Arizona and West Virginia. However, I’m cynical/realistic enough to know that politics and politicians generally don’t have a problem with craven opportunism, so let’s just say I’m tempering my expectations.
Go read Allahpundit’s post at Hot Air about Mitch McConnell’s warning of a “scorched earth Senate” if Schumer were to use the nuclear option on the legislative filibuster, because it provides some concrete examples of how Republicans could grind the business of the Senate to a halt if they did so.
At the same time, it’s also important to note that if Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi, Kamala Harris, and Joe Biden ever decide that it’s time to pass the president’s ban on 20-million modern sporting rifles and more than 150-million ammunition magazines, they might not even need to nuke the filibuster to do it. Here’s what really concerns me about the prospects of Biden’s gun ban in Congress.
During the Democratic primary Biden actually stated that he wasn’t in favor of nuking the filibuster and would just work across the aisle to pass the most sweeping gun ban in history. Bernie Sanders, on the other hand, said that he would budget reconciliation to pass gun control out of the Senate with the need for just 51 votes, and I have no doubt that Chuck Schumer won’t hesitate to use that maneuver when it’s politically advantageous to do so.
Given the price tag of Biden’s proposed compensated confiscation scheme and the billions of dollars in tax revenues that could be generated by the requirement to register banned guns and magazines under the National Firearms Act if they’re not handed over to the government, it would be at least as easy for Democrats to justify using reconciliation for BidenBan as it was when they used reconciliation to pass ObamaCare.
The makeup of the Supreme Court is a little now than it was when it upheld ObamaCare, however, and Chief Justice John Roberts isn’t the swing vote he was at the time of the decision. If and when Democrats do ram Biden’s gun ban bill through Congress with bare majorities and he signs it into law, there will be a flood of legal challenges, and how the bill was passed will be among the many arguments made.
Of course it’s still possible that Manchin and Sinema would not only vote against ending the filibuster, but would refuse to join in passing Biden’s gun ban by the slimmest of margins. West Virginia is one of the most pro-Second Amendment states in the union, and if Manchin was the deciding vote in favor of a gun ban it would not only destroy his political career, but it would put an end to the Democratic Party as a meaningful force in state politics for a generation or more.
I’m not as convinced the same is true for Arizona (though it certainly is for every solidly red state in the Union), but Sinema would certainly lose the “moderate” label she’s carefully cultivated since she arrived in Washington. Arizona may be trending blue (and the self-immolation of the GOP is certainly helping it along), but it’s not California yet, and I suspect that if Republicans were to nominate someone who wasn’t a complete loon in 2024 they would take back that seat in large part on her being the deciding vote on Biden’s gun ban.
Actually, every Democrat senator up for re-election in 2022 and 2024 could be rightfully declared the “deciding vote,” since if it does get passed through reconciliation it will likely be on strict party lines. Many Democrat senators will be happy to wear that as a badge of honor, of course, but I think it would be real trouble for Democrats defending seats in Nevada, Arizona, Georgia, Colorado, New Hampshire, and Vermont (though Senator Pat Leahy may decide not to run for a ninth term).
At the end of the day, it might be good old fashioned electoral politics that keeps Biden’s gun ban on the back burner, at least until the moment Schumer decides that a tragic shooting dominating a news cycle is a compelling enough event to use as justification to force Biden’s gun ban on the American people. Public opinion usually rises in favor of more gun control immediately after an event like that, gun control activists and anti-gun politicians know the political power of the emotional appeal, especially when our own emotions are raw.
If and when that happens, how many of those Democrats up for re-election in 2022 and 2024 would oppose Biden’s gun ban if they were continually told that large majorities of voters favored the measure? Regardless of whether it was true or how uninformed those voters might be when it comes to the unintended consequences of the gun and magazine ban, politicians have an unhealthy obsession with polling.
The cynic/realist in me believes it would likely be enough to move a gun ban through the Senate with a bare majority, though it would almost certainly come down once again to the votes of those unlikely defenders of the Second Amendment; Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin.
Ultimately, whether we’re talking about ending the filibuster or passing legislation through reconciliation, the biggest potential roadblocks for Biden’s anti-gun agenda in Congress are two Democrats from Arizona and West Virginia, which says everything about how precarious the political situation will be for gun owners for at least the next two years.
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