I have written on several previous occasions about how the overuse of the filibuster in the US Senate has greatly contributed to the dysfunction of that body. Some, including the US Senator from my state, Marco Rubio, are not clear on the history or the intent of the filibuster so a brief summary of the process may be worth repeating before addressing the “Newtown 31.”
The modern filibuster does not require that a senator keep the floor by speaking. Instead, all that is needed is 40 senators to say they intend to filibuster. The only way to override a filibuster is by passing a cloture motion to proceed with a 60 vote majority. Those voting “Nay” to such a cloture motion are voting to support the filibuster and prevent debate on the measure under consideration.
We saw this process in action with the Safe Communities, Safe Schools Act of 2013 (SB 649) which is titled “A bill to ensure that all individuals who should be prohibited from buying a firearm are listed in the national instant criminal background check system and require a background check for every firearm sale, and for other purposes.”
On April 11, 2013 the 31 US Senators attempted to kill the act by voting “Nay” on the cloture motion to proceed and thereby support a filibuster the act. How is it that any Senator believes that it is a remotely responsible act to attempt to suppress debate on this legislation? This legislation is not gun control – it’s background checks. It is etiolated but it’s something of which 94% of the American public approves. Ninety four percent!
The tragedy of Newtown and Sandy Hook is an indelible part of most people’s memories. It is unfortunate that for the Newtown 31 the memory of that tragedy appears to have been supplanted by their rabid allegiance to the NRA and their devotion to the vocal, fringe elements of their constituents.
We should expect more from our Senators and I can only hope that on election day voters will remember Sandy Hook and not forget the Newtown 31 who, on April 11, 2013, remembered the NRA instead of Newtown and attempted to block debate of SB 649.
The Newtown 31
April 2013: “Senator Portman’s decision on gay marriage and the lesson of Newtown.”
January 2013: “Dear Senator Marco Rubio: Facts matter – even on the simple issue of filibuster reform.”
June 2012: “The partisan public and Senate filibusters.”
August 2010: “Paper filibusters, obstruction and the dysfunctional Senate.”