Sen. Whitehouse blazes a path to voting rights passage; will it work?

January 20, 2022

Rhode Island U.S. Sen. Sheldon White House (D). Photo of President Franklin Roosevelt in background. Roll Call photo.

As I suspected, some U.S. Senators have been exploring Senate Rules for ways to shut down filibusters and other delaying tactics, but mainly to find a path around Republican filibustering of voting protection legislation.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) laid it out tonight, after Republicans blocked action on the John R. Lewis Act.

It’s likely Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell knows this path exists. But if Whitehouse is right, knowing the rules and being able to overcome them are two different things.

Every Senate wonk should take a look at Sen. Whitehouse’s plan.

One is my DISCLOSE Act being in the bill. Republicans must vote against it for their dark-money donors, but that kills them with voters. Ditto gerrymandering. Lots of focus on those painful votes for them in the bill will help.

Another is the Senate speak-twice rule. Senators who’ve spoken twice on a question can be ruled out of order if they keep at it. That’s why real filibusters were long, uninterrupted speeches. Not one and done, but two and done. (Yup, that’s 100 speeches by Rs — sorry!)

The motion to table allows the Senate to clear the decks of amendments. Each requires a vote, but is not debatable. Week after week, even through weekends, table the bad amendments.

“Dilatory” motions, amendments and other delaying mischief can be ruled out of order by the presiding officer. It takes a fair amount of nonsense before it becomes clearly dilatory, but it’s then a simple point of order—no vote.

There can be a vote to overrule the call, which is debatable; but when that fails, whatever motion or amendment was ruled dilatory ends.

So it’s painful, and long, and you have to exhaust Republican speakers and table or stop dilatory motions and amendments, but you can get to a simple majority vote — eventually.

One objection is that the Senate cannot afford to concentrate on one issue for so long. I wager that there is a lot of other business that can be conducted anyway, but Republicans would try to monkeywrench that stuff, too.

Taking a longer perspective, can we afford to let a tiny minority of Americans hold off action while they continue to plot to bring down our government?

Make no mistake that is what this is about.


Gun nuts at Fox pull a bait and switch; Obama already outflanks them

February 26, 2013

President Obama visits with survivors of the shooting in Aurora, Colorado. July 22, 2012

President Obama visits with survivors of the shooting in Aurora, Colorado. July 22, 2012 – White House photo. Click image to go to White House site, with more information on reducing gun violence.

Yeah, I know: Someone has sent you a post on Facebook claiming there are more murders from hammers than guns, and they quote Fox.

If they’re not complete nuts, they were careful and noted it was rifles being compared, and not all guns.

Here’s the Fox headline:

January 03, 2013

FBI: More People Killed with Hammers, Clubs Each Year Than Rifles

Then, just to rub it in, that person who sent you the link said something like, ‘so you propose hammer control, too?’

The best debaters in college learn to listen to what their opponents say, and not what they think their opponents should have said.  Good lawyers listen like that, too, in court, and in depositions.

See that last word in the headline?  “Rifles.”

Yeah, it’s a limited part of the total population of guns.

Total gun deaths in 2011 were 8,583 — continuing a five-year trend downward, thanks for small blessings.  Homicides only, not counting suicides — according to figures compiled by the FBI.

Did more than 8,500 people die from hammer assaults in 2011?

No, the same tally shows 496 people were murdered by use of  “Blunt objects (clubs, hammers, etc.).”

496 is 8,087 fewer than the 8,583 gun deaths.  But rifles?  Oh, yeah.

323 people died from rifle fire.  356 died from shotgun wounds.  6,220 died from handguns, 97 from “other guns,” and 1,587 died from gunshots where the type of gun was not recorded on the report to the FBI.  Add them up, you get 8,583 dead, murdered by gunfire.

Now, the gun advocates nuts say that it’s fair to compare rifle deaths only, since only the AR-15 is being questioned, and is the target for “taking guns away.”

That’s inaccurate.  President Obama laid out a plan of more than a score of actions, but only two refer to assault rifles, and only one refers to assault rifles directly:

Reinstate and strengthen the ban on assault weapons:  The shooters in Aurora and Newtown used the type of semiautomatic rifles that were the target of the assault weapons ban that was in place from 1994 to 2004. That ban was an important step, but manufacturers were able to circumvent the prohibition with cosmetic modifications to their weapons. Congress must reinstate and strengthen the prohibition on assault weapons.

And:

Limit ammunition magazines to 10 rounds:  The case for prohibiting high-capacity magazines has been proven over and over; the shooters at Virginia Tech, Tucson, Aurora, Oak Creek, and Newtown all used magazines holding more than 10 rounds, which would have been prohibited under the 1994 law. These magazines enable any semiautomatic weapon to be used as an instrument of mass violence, yet they are once again legal and now come standard with many handguns and rifles. Congress needs to reinstate the prohibition on magazines holding more than 10 rounds.

President Obama laid out a plan that will make it substantially more difficult for people who shouldn’t have guns suitable for mass killings, to have them.  More important, however, the President’s plan steps up the non-gun means available to stop mass shootings before a shooter gets to a campus armed and ready to kill.

The “discussion” will get more ugly, I predict, before it gets better.

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