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Archive for January, 2010

Last year, Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) authored an amendment that would have allowed the residents of states that allow concealed handgun carrying to take their guns across state lines—even into states with more restrictive rules about firearms. The amendment narrowly failed, but came at a time just weeks after President Obama had signed into law a bill that included a passage legalizing concealed carry in national parks, and just after state legislatures in Tennessee and Arizona voted to overturn bans on concealed weapons in bars.

Around the same time, a bill that would have lifted bans on concealed weapons on college and university campuses in Texas narrowly failed to pass the state legislature, the victim of a last-minute “chub-fest” orchestrated by House Democrats to prevent passage of the Republicans’ voter i.d. law.

For a few weeks, despite widespread recognition on the left that gun control is a losing issue for Dems, the debate played itself out, one more time, on the national stage. Washington Post editorial columnist E.J. Dionne leapt into the fray, urging national Republicans who argued that a greater preponderance of firearms protects public safety to “set an example in [their] own workplace” by lifting restrictions on concealed weapons in the U.S. Capitol. “Why would freedom-loving lawmakers want to hide behind guards and metal detectors?” Dionne wrote. “Shouldn’t NRA members be outraged that Second Amendment rights mean nothing in the very seat of our democracy?”

As far as I know, Republican leaders in Washington have yet to follow through on Dionne’s recommendations. But Texas Gov. Rick Perry, apparently, is cut from a different cloth. Last week, just one day after a deranged visitor opened fire on the steps of the Texas Capitol building, Perry hosted a campaign event in a shooting range. Conservative blogger Robbie Cooper, who was there:

This thing had security nightmare written all over it — especially the day after a crazed man opened fire on the steps of the Texas Capital (Rick Perry’s office, effectively). As near as I can tell, there was only one Security man in the range with about 12-15 armed citizens and Gov. Perry. And his Security agent looked nervous as hell…but Gov. Perry insisted upon doing this event.

Seriously…think about it…the room we were in was effectively a hallway, about 5′ wide and 40′ long. All of us crammed in there, all of us holding loaded weapons. With only one Security agent. But, the truth is, Gov. Perry couldn’t have been in a safer room anywhere in the world.

More here.

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Whooaa …

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Roy Edroso of the Village Voice captures the Republican zeitgeist.

I’ll just add that the last time Republicans held a three-fifths majority in the Senate was the 67th Congress, in 1923. If filibuster-proof majority is necessary to enact an agenda, it is only because of unprecedented obstructionism from across the aisle.

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Another good summation of where House Dems find themselves:

For all of the panic in Democratic ranks right now, the reality of the situation is stunningly simple. In the span of twenty-four hours, the House of Representatives — the House in which Democrats command a huge majority, in which liberals actually have some sway, and in which leadership actually has power — could put health care reform on the president’s desk for signing.

One lousy vote. One lousy, stinking roll call vote. That’s the only hurdle in the way of health care reform.

Are Democrats really willing to give up now?

From Political Animal:

This may sound overly simplistic. It’s not. The House could pass the Senate bill by the weekend, and then take up improvements negotiated over last week through reconciliation. The debate would be done; the bill would be law; the landmark breakthrough would be complete; Dems would have demonstrated their ability to deliver; and policymakers could finally move on to other issues.

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I generally try to avoid re-posting things that I find out there without adding something original to them. I’ll make an exception, though, for a post on this morning’s Political Animal, which is probably the best response I’ve read so far to the fallout from yesterday’s disappointing Senate race in Massachusetts, and to Democrats who think that the appropriate response to Coakley’s defeat is to give up on health care.

The need for Congress to pass health care reform has actually gotten stronger, not weaker, in the wake of the Massachusetts results. Let’s review the reasons:

1. The health care status quo is still broken, and Americans still need relief.

Policymakers have been talking about fixing our dysfunctional health care system for 98 years because American families, communities, and businesses need help. If congressional Democrats quit on their signature issue, tens of millions of Americans will still have no coverage; tens of thousands of Americans with no insurance will die; medical bankruptcies will continue to soar; premiums will still strain Americans’ wallets; wages will remain stunted; seniors stuck in the “donut hole” will still suffer; and unsustainable costs will still cripple businesses and government budgets. The problem won’t get better just because the insurance industry and right-wing political forces have convinced much of the country to fear and detest a reasonable solution. If the scare tactics win, Americans lose.

2. The political risks are much greater if Dems throw in the towel.

Congressional Democrats have already voted for the controversial health care reform bill. Do they seriously believe the electorate will be impressed if they spend a year doing the hard work of tackling this seemingly-impossible challenge, pass the landmark legislation, and then let it die? They think that’s the smart political move that increases their chance of wining re-election?

Failure begets failure. Choosing to walk away would be electoral suicide — the attacks from the right will only be more intense for Dems who voted for reform before deciding to throw in the towel.

The reform has obviously suffered in the face of an intense misinformation campaign. But Dems stand a far better chance of persevering if they at least take their case to the public, and explain the strengths of the proposal. There is literally no upside to the majority party asking voters for support after failing to do what they said they would do. Democrats were elected to finally pass health care reform; there will be no reward for turning success into a fiasco.

As Paul Begala said last night, “If it’s the end of health care, it’s the end of the Democratic majority.” Josh Marshall added, “The Dems have no choice but to finish the job. No choice.”

3. This is why Democrats exist.

I’ll just quote Ezra on this one: “[A] Democratic Party that would abandon their central initiative this quickly isn’t a Democratic Party that deserves to hold power. If they don’t believe in the importance of their policies, why should anyone who’s skeptical change their mind? If they’re not interested in actually passing their agenda, why should voters who agree with Democrats on the issues work to elect them? A commitment provisional on Ted Kennedy not dying and Martha Coakley not running a terrible campaign is not much of a commitment at all.”

As Kennedy reminded his party 30 years ago, “If the Democrats run for cover, if we become pale carbon copies of the opposition, we will lose — and deserve to lose. The last thing this country needs is two Republican parties.”

4. Democrats need to show they can govern and get something done.

Voters want to see progress. They want to see the change they voted for. They want proof that policymakers can identify a problem, work on a solution, and then pass legislation. Voters are more impressed with results than excuses.

To come this far before fumbling on the one-yard line only reinforces the worst of the attacks — a huge Democratic majority fought for a year to pass their top domestic policy priority, but then quit when things got tough. The adjectives aren’t hard to guess: weak, incompetent, and ineffective. It’s not exactly the image the party should try to convey in already-difficult year.

5. This is probably a now-or-never situation.

Politicians, by their nature, tend to be a little cowardly. Once in a while, a leader will step up, take a risk, and tackle a chronic problem that policymakers would prefer to ignore. Every time professional liars intervene to crush the solution, the cowardice is reinforced and leaders are reminded not to try to make things better.

If health care reform dies, it’ll be another 20 years before anyone tries again, and all the while, the dysfunctional status quo will get even worse and more Americans will suffer.

Here’s the bottom line for Democrats: show some backbone, remember why you’re there, and pass the damn bill. Americans are counting on you; don’t let them down.

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