With Barack Obama scheduled to unveil his sweeping gun-control package today, he’ll be surrounded by children rather than lawmakers. Why? It seems that lawmakers don’t share Obama’s enthusiasm for gun control. According to Politico, the chances of Obama’s proposal seeing a floor vote approach nil:
Before President Barack Obama can even launch his campaign-style blitz for new gun control measures, there are strong indications that any comprehensive legislation restricting weapons and ammunition won’t even see a vote on the House floor.
Interviews with multiple House Republicans from the Midwest and Northeast reveal almost zero appetite to vote on any sort of sweeping gun bill. In the month after the school shooting in Newtown, Conn., none have brought up the issue with Speaker John Boehner. Without internal pressure from such center-right Republicans, and given his difficulties with restive conservatives in his conference, Boehner would seem to have little political incentive to move on guns.
And that may leave the president with few options besides focusing on background checks and what he can accomplish by executive action.
For all the coverage devoted to how much political capital Obama will spend on the hot-button issue and the details of what Vice President Joe Biden’s task force will come up with, the political realities of Congress have gotten short shrift. Leaders in both chambers have stalled on the issue, using the Biden commission as cover to not weigh in definitively. But even if Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid were to attempt to muscle through a bill — no sure thing given his own ties to the National Rifle Association and the many red-state Senate Democrats up for reelection next year — there is only the most minimal support among rank-and-file House Republicans for gun control.
Well, that’s OK. Obama’s Democrats control the upper chamber and can force a vote on the proposal, right? Er … not so fast, says CNN’s Dana Bash (via Mediaite):
CNN’s Dana Bash reported on Tuesday that the President Barack Obama may be forced to use executive orders to pass new restrictions on gun and ammunition ownership because he lacks support for new laws in the Democratic-controlled Senate. The political environment in the upcoming midterm elections may not be as favorable to Democrats as 2012 was, and even Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) is expressing his reservations about proceeding with new gun control measures hastily….
CNN notes that Senate Democrats facing reelection in 2014 have recently become aware of their own vulnerability. A look at the electoral landscape heading into the 2014 midterms makes it clear why Senate Democrats would be trepidatious about passing new gun control measures.
21 Democratic seats, won in the 2008 pro-Democratic wave election, are up next year. Several Democrats have opted to retire or remain undecided as to whether they will run again in 2014. Six Democratic senators currently represent states which Mitt Romney carried when the national electorate was heavily Democratic. Midterm election years feature a smaller turnout than presidential elections, and the partisan makeup of the total electorate is usually more balanced. …
An executive order by the president will give Democrats time and cover necessary to codify those orders into laws, but the charge that Congress’ priorities – and the priorities of Washington Democrats in general – are not those of average voters may still gain traction as the next election cycle heats up. Combined with the headwinds the president’s party historically faces in midterm election cycles, Democrats in Congress have much to fear from hastily passed gun control legislation.
Don’t forget that normal rules apply on this proposal in the Senate. It’s not a budget package, for which cloture doesn’t apply. It will need 60 votes to even get to a floor vote, and right now it’s not clear that it can get a majority. Six Democrats have to face red-state voters in 2014, and Reid can only afford to lose three for a simple majority. Small wonder House Republicans are insisting that the Senate has to act first before the House will consider the proposal; it puts all of the political risk on Democrats, and practically ensures that the issue won’t come to Republicans at all.
The more clear this becomes, the more Democrats will shy away from it. They don’t need the added encumbrance in the midterms of having demanded gun control and ending up on the fringe of the argument, thanks to bipartisan opposition stalemating the push.