Gabby Giffords, the former Arizona Congresswoman who was shot by a typical gun nut who had no difficulty buying an automatic pistol with a large magazine despite being recognizably, dangerously insane, stood by President Obama after the pathetic Senate vote not to include a sensible provision to expand background checks for gun purchases, and she told off the Senators in very strong terms. Her editorial in the Times opened an offensive against the offenders; she accused them of cowardice, covered them with shame, and asked her readers to hold them responsible.
Let's review the facts, and the names. The amendment had 54 votes in favor, 46 against; it didn't pass because the rule applied for the bill in the Senate required amendments to receive 60 votes. 50 Democrats and 4 Republicans voted for it; 42 Republicans and 4 Democrats against. The amendment would have had 55 votes, but Majority Leader Harry Reid, seeing the certain outcome, voted against so that he could introduce a motion to reconsider at some point.
I think Reid is on the right track: those who voted against included some who appear fearful of retribution from the NRA in the next election. Giffords is calling on us to make those political hacks more afraid of the retribution of Americans, who in opinion polls overwhelmingly supported the provision.
So, let's name names, beginning with those who deserve praise. These are the Republicans who bucked the trend and voted in favor: Susan Collins of Maine, Mark Kirk of Illinois, John McCain of Arizona, and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, who was a co-sponsor of the legislation, along with Joe Manchin of West Virginia. I give them full credit and pledge some "immunity" in the next election--if they don't do anything too stupid, I will not contribute to their opponents.
I also want to credit a few others who might have caved, due to a sense that their states would not support their backing sensible gun reform, but did not: Independent Angus King of Maine; Tim Johnson of South Dakota, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, and Kay Hagan of North Carolina. Along with Manchin, they've also earned my backing- - at least for the short-term--by choosing to do the right thing.
Now, the hit list: at the head of it are the four Democratic Senators who voted against the amendment: Mark Begich of Alaska, Max Baucus of Montana, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, and most shamefully, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota. The first three have re-election battles coming up in 2014 and perhaps have reason to be fearful of consequences, though I question the accuracy of their judgment. Heitkamp, though, just won election, with a lot of support of national Democrats, and her betrayal is particularly noticeable. I would say something similar of Begich, who has sought support from national Democrats, and should get none in the future. The other two are corporate tools from whom I expected nothing. To be fair, their votes would not have been enough to pass the amendment, but they gave cover to Republicans who also knew better.
Apart from Heitkamp, the other woman who should've known better was Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire. Yes, she's a Republican, and no moderate, but this is more a test of common-sense and courage than of ideology. She failed it; I thought she was a little smarter. Most of the Republican votes were what we should expect, whether their reasons were libertarian, corporatist (serving the gun manufacturers), or simple Obama-hater (he's for it, so I must be against it). For the record, two other women of the 20 Senators voted against the provision: Deb Fischer of Nebraska and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. Still, that's 16 for it, and 4 against; once again, the women showed more sense in the Congressional food fight.
In a previous post, I suggested that it would be justice for those who vote against background checks to be the victims of deranged gun-wielders with their arms purchased legally under the radar. Although I still feel that emotionally about it, I would suggest non-violent bulls-eyes for Pryor, Begich, Heitkamp, Ayotte, and Baucus as suitable targets for political campaigns to pressure reconsideration for this foul legislative outcome. Five vote changes, plus Byrd's, would allow this to be reversed and put the spotlight on the House. This vote let Boehner and the House of Orange off way too easily. Public opinion has shifted, and those who would block sensible gun reform in both houses of Congress should feel our fury.