In More than Name Only

Come Senators, Congressmen,

Please heed the call,

Don’t stand in the doorway,

Don’t block up the hall*…

harry-reidI understand that Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid represents a small, mostly rural state that is traditionally pro-gun and typically leery of any type of legislation that can impinge on “the right to bear arms.” However, I was shocked and disappointed to read of his objections to Sen. Feinstein’s bill to greatly reduce availability of assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines. In doing so, he may be attempting to please a small number of constituents in his home state but is abandoning his role as leader of the Democratic majority in the senate and is out of touch with the policies that President Obama is fighting for in his second term.

Gun control demoConsidering the national sorrow and indignation over the massacre of innocent children in Newtown, CT, now is the time to break free of the stranglehold that the NRA has held over our leaders on this issue to date. Now is the time for the Senate to muster up the political courage to do the right thing, which the President and the overwhelming majority of U.S. citizens are demanding –  strong legislation to ban high-capacity ammunition, institute universal background checks at gun shows, and ban assault weapons whose sole purpose is the mass destruction of human life. Now is the time for the so-called leader of the Democrats in the Senate to cover the backs of those in his party like Feinstein and others sponsoring the gun control bill rather than cower and wilt in fear of the dreaded NRA.

And if this cowardice were not enough, in the same week Senator Reid hypocritically folded his hand on the issue of amending the rules on filibustering. Reid had been publicly lobbying for years on the need to significantly alter the Senate rules that allow a handful of minority Senators to sabotage the legislative process and require a super majority of 60 votes to get anything done at all. Rachel Maddow, the other night played clip after clip demonstrating his clear position on the need to facilitate an effective legislative process, but Reid totally caved and announced a compromise “handshake” agreement with Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell that abandons any meaningful reform. Reid and McConnellInstead of delivering on his clear promise, Reid’s “compromise” with the Republicans did not result in any substantive rules changes. Not only did he fail to disarm the minority holding Congress hostage to its extreme agenda and thus put the legislative process back on course, but his obvious flip-flop only served to reinforce the popular belief that Congress is hopelessly lost without the moral compass or political will to break the log jam and has abandoned its responsibilities to govern.

It seems President Obama has finally learned how to deal with Republican obstructionism and the Democrats can ill-afford to squander its opportunities. Now is the time for Senator Reid “get out of the doorway if [he] can’t lend a hand” and provide the leadership his colleagues entrusted in him or make room for a true Senate Majority Leader in more than name only.

* This is the second post in three years that I felt compelled to quote the prophetic lyrics in Dylan’s classic, The Times They Are A-Changin’.  Just cannot be said better and unfortunately every bit as true today as the day they written in 1963.

____________________________________________________

This just in… The Republican minority in the Senate has for the first time in U.S. history filibustered the appointment of a President’s cabinet nominee – former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense.  This, despite promises from six leading Republican Senators to the contrary just last week and assurances from Mitch McConnell that filibusters would not be used ubiquitously when he and Harry Reid made a “gentleman’s agreement” on Senate rules.  It took exactly three weeks for the Republicans to abandon that agreement… Harry, what have you got to say now? 

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. What about my suggestion that us gun-control-advocates change the debate to ‘the 2nd amendment refers to a well-regulated militia and we want to make sure that’s what gun owners belong to’? Of course that wouldn’t rule out some crazies who are members of a local militia, but that still might be a better scenario than the current situation.

    Editor’s response: Way back when, there was no standing army so the framers of the constitution were attempting to preserve the right of the states to field militias for defense – legal scholars (check out Cornell Univ Law School web site, http://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/second_amendment) refer to this as the “collective rights” interpretation. This approach was upheld by the Supreme Court in 1939 and stood until 2008 when a conservative Republican activist court overturned it and for the first time, proclaimed that the Second Amendment established an individual right for U.S. citizens to possess firearms. So I think the key is to go back and revisit what the founding fathers had in mind in the first place (state-run militas to protect the rights of their citizens)… but fanatical gun nuts only hear what they want to hear.

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  2. Cheryl went to elementary school through first grade at Sandy Hook. Talk about hitting close to home. I wonder why the folks who think guns should be controlled a bit more can’t bring the conversation around to ‘a well regulated militia’? Isn’t that part of the 2nd amendment? Where’s the well regulated militia in all this uncontrolled gun ownership that the NRA is so bent on allowing? The framers of the constitution wanted to make sure that the central government didn’t get so much power that they could not be overthrown. Hey, you understand that, right? But things have really gotten out of hand. I imagine the framers would be turning in their graves if they saw how that turned out.

    Editor’s response: Agreed, we need to stop this insanity … must have been extra emotional for Cheryl.

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