Gun-control official on Senate failure: "Bribery isn't what it once was"

Give this guy credit, at least, for not mincing words. In a more prosperous age, billions of dollars in pork would have been flung at the Senate’s gun-control fencesitters to buy their votes yesterday. It took an endlessly sputtering economy, $16 trillion in debt, and an entitlement crisis so frightening that even Obama’s now proposing (exceedingly mild) Social Security reform to starve the beast, if only for one day. Cut Congress’s pursestrings and good things can happen. Who knew?

The gun control groups central to Obama’s push never lost faith in the White House and praised its efforts even as it was clear the push would fail.

“Bribery isn’t what it once was,” said an official with one of the major gun-control groups. “The government has no money. Once upon a time you would throw somebody a post office or a research facility in times like this. Frankly, there’s not a lot of leverage.”

Couldn’t Mike Bloomberg have offered to build a $500 million bridge in Alaska for Begich or something? Maybe that’s the next step in the big counter-NRA campaign.

Don’t celebrate too much, though: A good outcome here could mean a bad one elsewhere.

In the end, however, moderates and conservatives in the upper chamber said they simply couldn’t deal with a flurry of progressive issues at once — from gay marriage to immigration to guns…

One senator told a White House official that it was “Guns, gays and immigration – it’s too much. I can be with you on one or two of them, but not all three.”…

But privately, administration officials were looking ahead to the far more sanguine prospects of negotiating a bipartisan immigration reform bill — and expressed hope that clearing the decks on guns would raise prospects for a faster agreement.

Yeah, now that red-state Democrats and purple-state Republicans have shown conservatives back home that they’re willing to go to the mat for gun rights, they need something to show centrists how pragmatic and moderate they are. Immigration’s the obvious choice. Mickey Kaus has been worried about that for months, writing during the Hagel hearings that he hoped the GOP lost on that one so that they’d dig in and fight to win against amnesty. Of course, they did end up losing on Hagel — but now they’ve just won very big on guns, with Obama and his gun-control lackeys promising to make a colossal stink about it into next year. If you’re Mark Pryor, how much do you resist the Gang of Eight bill under those circumstances? The Democratic leadership is annoyed at you for your gun votes so you’re looking to make amends; you’ve got cover from conservative heartthrob Marco Rubio to vote yes on immigration, which may end up being the signature achievement of O’s second term, so there you go. The immigration battles of the last decade were characterized by defectors on both sides but, thanks to gun control, those conditions may no longer obtain. Democratic squishes may fold, leaving only the most conservative factions of the House and Senate to fend the bill off. McConnell might be prepared to resist at all costs because he’s terrified of a primary challenge in Kentucky, but is Boehner? With so much of the Republican intelligentsia screaming at him to throw Latinos a bone so that we can boost our take of their vote in the next election to 31 or 32 percent or whatever? Dude, I’m nervous.

Also, I’m not as confident as Ed that they won’t take one last stab at background checks later this year or early next, if/when they’re done with immigration. (Schumer predicted this weekend that immigration would be finished within eight weeks.) It all depends on how much heat the Senate’s squishes take from anti-gun groups. If Bloomberg starts spending heavily in their Senate races to make an example of them and if Toomey/Manchin can be watered down a bit to let the squishes save face in flipping their votes to yes, then why not give it another shot? Reid voted no on the bill yesterday, in fact, for the express purpose of preserving his ability to reintroduce it later. Ironically, the immigration debate may help determine whether gun control gets a second chance just as gun control momentarily might have helped determine the odds of passing immigration reform. If the pushback against Rubio’s bill from the right is more intense than expected, the Pryors and Begiches of the world may decide they have no choice but to vote no on that too. In that case, they’ll be stuck looking for a way to placate liberals, who’ll now be doubly disappointed. A weakened bill on background checks could do the trick. Unlikely, but possible.

Update: Dude?

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David Strom 5:21 PM on March 31, 2023