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A blog about everything: Abraham Lincoln, birds, Jewish history, Elton John, classic literature (Henry James, John Steinbeck vs. Upton Sinclair), America's gun problem, and who-knows-what-else.


Enough is enough

Who is as disgusted as I am about the U.S. Senate votes yesterday on gun control? And let's be aware, people, that these were not up-or-down votes on the merits of the legislation. These were votes on whether to vote on gun control! What, you ask? How can this be? Well, I'll tell you. There's this game that's being played in the U.S. Senate, spearheaded by Senate Republicans ever since President Obama's election, of filibustering 99.9% of all legislation favored by the President and/or the Democrats. Everything. Even things that Republicans had previously supported, they now filibuster.

I see you're wondering what I mean by a "filibuster." Friends, a filibuster is an objection filed by one or more senators to allowing a vote on a particular piece of legislation. Once this objection is filed, the only way to get past it is to secure 60 votes. In other words, 51 votes, a majority, aren't enough to break a filibuster. As you can imagine, a 60-vote threshold is quite difficult to reach for many pieces of legislation. And so it is the case here, with gun legislation.

Did you know that a majority of Senate members voted to break almost all of the filibusters? A majority! Normally, this is enough to get legislation passed. But not when we're talking about a filibuster. With a filibuster, you need 60 votes. So, because the Dems didn't have 60 votes - and some Dems, shamefully, voted to sustain the filibuster - the gun legislation couldn't even be discussed on its merits or receive an up-or-down vote on the merits.

This is especially awful when you consider that a majority of Americans support many of the proposed gun control measures, including, for God's sake, background checks! In fact, 90% of Americans – give or take a percentage point depending on the poll being reported - support background checks! The polls also show that a solid majority favor a ban on assault weapons as well as on high-capacity magazines or gun clips.

But, with some exceptions (McCain, Toomey, Kirk and Collins), the NRA-fearing Republicans in the U.S. Senate - along with some of the Democrats - have thwarted majority sentiment in the United States and refused to consider any gun control legislation! Friends, is this democracy? You can't honestly believe that it is.

First, we have to defeat the NRA and the gun manufacturers. This will involve also defeating many of the members of the Senate who voted to sustain the filibusters against sensible - and sorely needed - gun control legislation. Please check to see whether your senator voted against the filibuster (and for gun control) or voted to sustain the filibuster (and against gun control).

Then we need filibuster reform, and not the timid steps taken by U.S. Senate Majority Leader and Coward-in-Chief Harry Reid. The filibuster either has to go altogether, or the threshold for overcoming a filibuster must be reduced dramatically. Even requiring Senate members to stand in chambers and talk to keep the filibuster going would be an excellent reform, because then the attention of all Americans would be drawn to the individuals who are putting up roadblocks to legislation that most of those same Americans believe is in the public interest.

After that, we need term limits. There are too many members of Congress, of both parties, and in both houses, who are too, too beholden to powerful entities that do not represent the public interest. If we can get politicians to stop worrying about reelection, we might, and probably would, get better legislation from them.

Chief among the powerful entities to which members of Congress are beholden is the horrible NRA. I'm not talking about the NRA members, most of whom apparently favor sensible gun control legislation. I'm talking about the real power behind the NRA - gun manufacturers. At least as detrimental to the public interest are the oil, natural gas and coal industries, which are responsible for not only the most damaging pollution, but also the perpetuation of climate change. Then you've got other manufacturing interests that continue to stand in the way of sensible oversight of chemicals, food safety, and workplace safety. And there is Wall Street, too, with its sensitive feelings always being "hurt" by the mere suggestion that they might be a little too greedy for the public good.

We have a lot of work to do, and we can do it, but we must be aware of the hurdles, and we must be persistent.
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