There wasn’t much suspense in the House chamber today as Democrats advanced the first two pieces of Joe Biden’s anti-gun agenda along a mostly party-line vote, but the prospects of passage in the U.S. Senate will likely provide much more drama in the days and weeks ahead.
The final tally for H.R. 8, which would require background checks be performed on the vast majority of private transfers of firearms, was 227-203, with eight Republicans voting in favor of the background check bill and one Democrat opposed. .
H.R. 1446, which would extend the time that the FBI has to conduct an “instant” background check from three business days to at least ten business days (and could extend the waiting period indefinitely, was approved on a slightly narrower vote of 219-210, with two Republicans voting in favor of the new gun control bill and a pair of Democrats in opposition.
Democrats are insistent that these measures will save lives and prevent criminals from obtaining firearms, though they’ve yet to explain how either bill would compel criminals to go through background checks rather than steal firearms or continue to acquire them through other illicit means. Instead, their floor speeches were full of the mindless pablum we’ve come to expect from anti-gun lawmakers. You’re not supposed to question their assertions. You’re just supposed to nod and agree with statements like this.
The era of offering only “thoughts and prayers” in response to gun violence is over. The American people demand action.
— Rep. Mike Levin (@RepMikeLevin) March 10, 2021
Republicans, on the other hand, based most of their objections on protecting the Second Amendment rights of American citizens. Rep. Thomas Massie pointed out the hypocrisy of Democrats’ trying to impose new burdens and restrictions on the right to bear arms at a time while seeking to add more armed protection for themselves.
I challenged sponsors of this week’s gun control bills to consider whether it's fair to surround themselves w/ armed soldiers, Cap. Hill police, & personal details while making it harder for citizens to exercise their right to self-defense. It’s neither fair nor constitutional! pic.twitter.com/X2WwFJSB5t
— Thomas Massie (@RepThomasMassie) March 11, 2021
The House vote was never really in doubt. The big question is what happens with these bills once they get to the U.S. Senate. It’s clear that there aren’t 60 votes in that chamber to make it a federal offense to loan a gun to your neighbor for a day or two in case her abusive ex shows up at her door, but Democrats will be putting even more pressure on Sen. Joe Manchin to go along with an attempt to pass the legislation with just 51 votes; either through budget reconciliation or by nuking the legislative filibuster completely.
An outright end to the filibuster is still a slim possibility, but Manchin’s fellow Senate Democrats are hard at work looking for ways to get around the rule.
Under a proposal from Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), the minority party would get to hold “extended debate” if the majority does not reach 60 votes, but eventually once the minority stops holding the Senate floor, a simple majority would end debate and move to a final vote.
That’s not how Manchin sees things. He is willing to listen to Democrats who have ideas at reshaping filibuster rules, but Manchin reiterated Tuesday that he believes the 60-vote requirement is what makes the Senate a unique legislative body across the globe.
“At the end of the day, you understand the minority must have input, and it must be a process to get to that 60-vote threshold,” Manchin said.
With those comments from Manchin, smart Democrats and anti-filibuster activists know that any chance at repealing the filibuster will take many more months. They need to bring legislation through committees and to the House and Senate floor, to see whether Republicans are willing to work with Democrats.
They won’t find many Republicans willing to work with Democrats on criminalizing private transfers. I could see Susan Collins going along, and Pennsylvania’s Pat Toomey is expected to vote with Democrats on H.R. 8 at the least, but after that the math gets a little fuzzy. The biggest question at the moment appears to be whether Joe Manchin wants a universal background check bill more than he wants to keep the 60-vote threshold in place.
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