Talk about a remarkable week in the U.S. Congress. In case you missed it, here are just a few of the highlights of still another remarkably unproductive week on Capitol Hill:
- On Wednesday House Democrats brought that chamber to a halt by sitting in on the House floor and demanding a vote on legislation to prohibit terrorists from being able to purchase guns. The GOP turned off the cameras and microphones and tried to ignore them, but that didn’t work. They were calling too much attention to the senseless gun violence Americans are forced to endure because of legislative inaction. So early Thursday morning, when most Americans were asleep, GOP House Speaker Paul Ryan adjourned the House until after July 4th. That was sooner than Ryan had planned, but always a useful way of silencing critics. You can read more about all of this here.
- Also on Wednesday Republicans on the powerful House Appropriations Committee rejected an amendment to limit the sale of firearms to terrorist suspects. The GOP argued that would violate the due process rights of suspected terrorists and deprive them of their second amendment right to keep and bear arms. Read more about that here. But if you think this had anything to do with preserving your constitutional freedoms, read on.
- In the Senate, a Republican proposal sponsored by GOP Senators John McCain and Richard Burr that would have allowed the FBI to gain access to people’s browsing histories and email metadata by broadening the scope of administrative subpoenas known as National Security Letters (NSL) was narrowly rejected for the time being. The measure, which would have also allowed warrantless access to phone logs and cell-site data used to pinpoint locations, is expected to be resurrected in the near future given how close the vote was. For Republicans, apparently, your fourth amendment rights are far less important than the second amendment rights of suspected terrorists. Read more about the McCain proposal here and here.
- All of this came after Senate Republicans voted down efforts on Monday to prevent those on terrorist watch lists from gaining access to guns. They tried to turn the issue into one about due process, a lie quickly revealed by their support for the McCain amendment discussed above. You can read more about this here.
- Finally, to cap another productive week on Capitol Hill, GOP Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell crafted a test vote on a much narrower gun proposal, one sponsored by GOP Senator Susan Collins of Maine. That proposal would have only affected 109,000 people, 2700 of whom would have been Americans. These are people who are on two lists: the no-fly list, which prevents them from boarding commercial planes flying to, from or over the United States; and a so-called “selectee list,” which mandates they receive extra scrutiny at airports before flying.. But even that was too much for Senate Republicans who managed to derail the Collins proposal. You can read about that here.
What can we deduce from all of this?
One thing that should be obvious by now is that most Republicans have no interest at all in passing any kind of common sense gun legislation, Yes, some Republicans are supportive and some Democrats are in bed with the NRA. But the inability to get anything done can be traced to the overwhelming majority of Republicans who prefer doing nothing about gun massacres than doing anything, however modest, that the NRA and gun manufacturers oppose.
The other lesson that can be drawn from all of this is that House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell are accomplished legislative killers. They know how to kill anything that would actually do something to end gun violence in America and they proved that time and again this week. The two are indeed GOP hit men determined to use their power to prevent common sense gun legislation from ever passing.
Some call them legislative leaders. I prefer to think of them as legislative assassins. Ryan in particular has fawning admirers in media circles who keep looking for the quintessential thoughtful Republican, one who actually has ideas.
But where is the Ryan plan to end gun violence in America? He doesn’t have one because neither he nor McConnell want one. They just want to stall and delay until public outrage blows over. They just want to avoid difficult votes that their GOP colleagues would have to explain back home.
They just want to prevent anything from ever getting done. Neither Ryan nor McConnell are thoughtful and they’re certainly no friends to ordinary Americans who are tired of seeing their children and loved ones gunned down by madmen.
Ryan and McConnell have blood on their hands and they rightly deserve your contempt for the legislative hit men they are.