A bipartisan group of senators recently endorsed a bill to limit suspected terrorists from buying guns. “I hope we can pass this,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told reporters seven days ago. “Let’s put it this way: If we can’t pass this, it truly is a broken system.”
A week later, it’s getting easier to say it really is a broken system.
Last week, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) presented a compromise bill, which would make it “illegal for anyone on the federal “no-fly list” or “selectee list” (which targets people for extended inspections at airports) to legally purchase a gun.” It reached the Senate floor, where members had an opportunity to kill the measure, but it survived its first test, despite NRA opposition.
Soon after, a bipartisan group of House members unveiled an identical bill in the lower chamber, further fueling the hopes of reformers.
But as The Hill noted, it’s best to start lowering expectations.
Instead of setting up a vote to add the Collins legislation to the pending appropriations bill on the Senate floor, [Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell] scheduled a vote to discard it.The Collins bill survived that test in a 46-52 vote, but it fell far short of winning 60 votes, the threshold necessary to overcome procedural hurdles.The result allows Republicans to argue that no other action is necessary.
In other words, in the Senate, Collins’ bipartisan compromise is stuck in legislative limbo: it’s not advancing, but it’s not dead. McConnell allowed a “motion to table” vote, which gave some cover to vulnerable Republican senators worried about re-election, but which will very likely be the last time this Congress that Collins’ bill sees daylight.
In the House, a vote on a companion bill is about as likely, but if the lower chamber were to somehow approve the proposal, the 60 votes needed to overcome a Republican filibuster just aren’t there.
Note, in the new Washington Post/ABC News poll, 86% of Americans support a ban on gun purchases by those on terrorist watch lists. In these divided times, 86% of Americans don’t agree on much, but they see the merit of this proposed change.
But in this Republican-led Congress, the idea nevertheless has no chance of success. All of which brings us back to Lindsey Graham’s quote from last week: “Let’s put it this way: If we can’t pass this, it truly is a broken system.”