Political Animal


April 17, 2013 9:20 AM Guns In the 60-Vote Senate

By Ed Kilgore

So the Manchin-Toomey proposal, which the NRA might have praised as its own handiwork not that long ago, is no longer wafting towards easy passage in the Senate on the fresh breeze of bipartisanship. With votes on nine amendments to the “shell” legislative vehicle provided by Harry Reid scheduled for this afternoon, a motion to overcome a filibuster to vote on Manchin-Toomey has 52 publicly announced supporters. One more, Frank Lautenberg, is a potential vote-from-a-stretcher possibility. Beyond that, though, Manchin-Toomey would have to secure all seven undecided senators (Ayotte, Baucus, Begich, Heitkamp, Landrieu, McCain, Pryor), which is more than a bit of a reach (you think Begich, Landrieu and Pryor are going to do anything that will let them be described in 2014 ads as the “deciding vote” on “gun control?” Uh-uh). Meanwhile, a Republican amendment to expand gun rights by requiring states to recognize the terms for other states’ concealed-carry laws (basically privileging citizens of states with looser gun regulations and encouraging others to relax their own) may have a better chance of passage than Manchin-Toomey.

Ask a group of progressives how we got to this point, and one will talk about the unholy power of the NRA, another will complain about Obama’s alleged lack of “leadership,” and a third will find some way to blame the media. But look at the numbers, folks: if not for the insane, completely novel 60-vote requirement in the Senate, Manchin-Toomey would indeed be on the brink of certain passage, or more likely, the Senate would be seriously considering much tougher measures.

It becomes plainer every day that serious filibuster reform is the precondition to enactment of virtually any progressive legislation on virtually any subject. I don’t want to become like Cato the Elder and haunt every discussion with the words “Filibuster Delenda Est” (or however you would render “filibuster” in Latin), but it’s tempting.

UPDATE: Manchin is now telling reporters his and Toomey’s amendment will fail.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • Mikhail the History Grad Student on April 17, 2013 9:30 AM:

    I for one thing Filibuster Delenda Est makes for an awesome signature on a political blog.

    Also: CATO! (I'm made happy by historical references, okay?)

  • LaFollette Progressive on April 17, 2013 9:32 AM:

    Ed, you could do worse than becoming the cranky filibuster-hating Cato-the-Elder of progressive politics. That's a niche that's begging to be filled.

  • ComradeAnon on April 17, 2013 9:35 AM:

    And Dems continue to be lead by the republican finger pulling their nose around. "..which the NRA might have praised as its own handiwork not that long ago..". This is a common denominator to legislation. I hope a filibuster fix will give them the balls they definitely don't possess.

  • sjw on April 17, 2013 9:36 AM:

    Obama Mistake 1. If Obama wanted filibuster reform, he could press Reid hard. Now maybe Obama has done that behind the scenes, but there are no signs for such.
    Obama Mistake 2. In the days after Newtown, I commented here that Obama needed to lead NOW and that waiting would be the death of gun reform. Alas, Obama dilly dallied.

  • c u n d gulag on April 17, 2013 9:51 AM:

    Ok, so, gun control is out.

    My bet is that today, instead of passing that, they'll vote for the registration of all pressure-cookers, and limit the sales of them:
    "The Boston Pressure-cooker Act of 2013!"

    2 large deluxe models per purchase for white people.
    1 small one per purchase for all others.

    You can walk around with all the guns you want - but no open-carrying of pressure-cookers.

  • Celui on April 17, 2013 9:52 AM:

    @sjw: unfortunately, very true!!!
    What's so evident in this is (a) the amazingly potent threat held over the heads of elected officials by the NRA and the Norquists of the ideological idolaters; (b) the fear of primary opposition in cases where those who are running for re-election have no real, viable political record on which to run, except that of being pulled around by moneyed interests; (c) the grand scam perpetrated on the American voters by the infamous 'Citizens United' decision. Way too many current senators and representatives have no real interest in the future of this nation. Only their re-election war chest matters, the public be damned.

  • DF on April 17, 2013 10:02 AM:

    This has nothing to do with Obama. This is the Senate's dysfunction. Obama can't lean on Reid at all. What would he do? Refuse to endorse him? Reid wouldn't care; he'll win re-election either way.

    The blame for this is exactly where Mr. Kilgore placed it: the Senate filibuster "rules."

  • JMG on April 17, 2013 10:05 AM:

    Obama has a number of ways to pressure Reid and the Democrats. He could simply threaten to find and finance third-party candidates to run against Senators who won't vote for filibuster reform. In or out of office, he would guarantee their defeat. Why should he be loyal to legislators who are not loyal to him or their party?

  • T2 on April 17, 2013 10:10 AM:

    Reid had his chance to redo the filibuster rules but chickened out, resoning that someday the Dems might need to filibuster. A losers mentality. GOPers work from a winners mentality, even when they are losing.
    The day after Sandy Hook, I predicted no substantive gun law reform would happen. It won't.

  • John Robert BEHRMAN on April 17, 2013 11:01 AM:

    Remember the filibuster is used by the GOP but it has been preserved by the Democrats. Why? The reason is simply that the individual Democrats are essentially free-lances bargaining over ear-marks, pork, and other small change with a handful of associates, something like ten large contributors, ten most favored lobbies, and ten other Senate colleagues from both parties.

    They will grandstand over something they know will not pass just to wow some voters. But, they do not want their party to take responsibility for governing as a majority: They want to "share" -- meaning diffuse -- responsibility across parties and, as a matter of fact, across branches of government.

  • Peter C on April 17, 2013 11:17 AM:

    I donít think it is fair to blame Obama for this, @sjw, heís pushed hard for gun control and given both time and effort into crafting sensible proposals which have broad public support and which stay within established and constitutionally-tested limits. These are bills which should pass in a functioning democracy.

    Frustratingly, we donít have a functioning democracy. The Republican Partyís abuse of the filibuster and the disproportionate political power of money and the NRA are some of the main drivers of this dysfunction, and blame for them should be assigned squarely on the Republicans and not deflected to Obama and the Democrats.

    It is not appropriate to blame either Obama or the Democrats for the blatant, intentional abuse committed by the Republicans. Iím frustrated with their ineffective RESPONSE to this abuse of our democracy, but blaming the victim is just as enabling as adopting an ineffective strategy.

    Fixing the Senate will not completely restore our democracy, but it IS an important step. Still, even if the gun bill passed in the Senate, we have no way of FORCING the Republicans to bring it to a vote in the House.

    Personally, Iíd like a new Senate leader. Reid has failed to effectively react to a permanent paradigm shift, and that places us at strategic disadvantage despite the power we should have (given our majority in the Senate). We could replace Reid with a more effective Senate leader. We could do this without losing any power. We could do this without violating any democratic principle.

    We canít as easily replace Obama; his term has 3 Ĺ more years and replacing him because of my desires for better tactics would not be democratic. Obamaís style has never been a secret and it may well have been a factor in his election. I voted for him DESPITE his accommodating style, but others may well have chosen him for it.

    But, the real culprits are the Republicans. I think weíd be best served by concentrating on making them pay a stiff political price for their obstruction. Thatís the main battle. During the selection process for our next nominee, we can (and should) focus on finding better tacticians for the future. But, we go to war with the tacticians we have and not the ones we would wish to have.

  • Citizen Alan on April 17, 2013 12:02 PM:

    I never expected any meaningful gun control to pass, but even I am astounded that Congress might pass a bill to weaken state gun control laws by requiring states with restrictive carry laws to respect laws passed in Red State hell-holes. It's like the 21st Century equivalent of Fugitive Slave Laws. It's not even enough to leave the gun nuts alone, unless we admit that that they're right and agree to live by their rules.

  • Buzzed on Beans on April 17, 2013 4:50 PM:

    Pocono, I wish you fucking morons would get froggy and jump. You'll be a charcoal briquette by lunch and the American gene pool will get a long-overdue cleansing.

    I love how you fucking firearm-fetishists go right to the last half of the Second Amendment. You say "shall not be infringed" = "not limited." But only if you ignore the fact that the FIRST FOUR WORDS of the amendment you truncate are "A well-regulated militia..."

    Douchebag. What are you compensating for? Did your mommy not love you, did your daddy make you feel inferior, or did your penis just never develop?