Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s, R-K.Y. (F, 44%) handling of the fallout from the Orlando terrorist attack in recent weeks has been an unprecedented disaster. Here’s why.
The floor of each chamber can be a powerful tool, just ask Senators Rand Paul, R-K.Y. (A, 95%) and Ted Cruz, R-K.Y. (A, 97%) who through epic speeches captivated the attention of the country. Just last week Democrat Senator Chris Murphy, D-C.T. (F, 8%) was able to draw the attention of the national media to his cause of gun control by commanding the Senate floor in a 15-hour-long filibuster.
The goal of competent Republican Senate leadership after the Orlando attack should have been to respond by controlling the debate and defining the narrative on its terms. After all, Republicans control the Senate floor and thus the agenda.
The preferred way of Republicans defining the narrative on their terms would have been for McConnell to announce that because of the threat of radical Islamic terrorism in the United States the Senate would immediately move to consideration of the appropriations bill that funds the Department of Defense. A bill that literally funds the troops who will take the fight to radical jihadists.
Doing so would have unified Republicans and split Democrats. Democrats would have been left with the choice between funding our nation’s troops or filibuster their funding in an effort to push forward a radical gun control agenda — an agenda that would have done absolutely nothing to stop the Orlando attack. Instead, McConnell divided Republicans on the issue of guns and allowed Democrats to have the upper hand in controlling the narrative and legislative agenda.
If Republicans had successfully moved the Department of Defense funding bill, they would have been able to offer a series of amendments that deal directly with radical Islamic terrorism and would have defined the debate on their terms. Media coverage would be about amendments intended to address ISIS, domestic terrorism, and an immigration system that is arguably one of our nation’s biggest national security threats, instead of the gun control theatrics we’re seeing today.
As a byproduct of moving to the Department of Defense funding bill, Rule XVI in the Senate would have precluded Democrats from bringing up any of the gun control amendments, which Republicans are currently being forced to vote on. Thereby protecting any vulnerable GOP members in tough general election races.
Instead, to show that Republicans can “govern” McConnell opted to stay on the Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) funding bill. A huge tactical blunder.
Because spending bills must originate in the House, the House version of the CJS funding bill is used to determine what amendments can be offered in the Senate. And the House CJS funding bill has provisions that have allowed Democrats to successfully achieve their goal of gun control votes and pushing their message of more gun control.
Committed to his course of seeing through the CJS funding bill to prove Republicans can “govern,” McConnell on Monday agreed to allow two votes on Democrat gun control proposals, along with two Republican side-by-sides. Significantly, these side-by-sides are not pro-gun designed to highlight the GOP standing up for Second Amendment rights. Rather, they are gun control lite proposals.
But Thursday, things got even worse as McConnell stumbled into his biggest blunder yet, forcing a vote on a motion to kill the latest gun control proposal from fellow Republican Senator Susan Collins, R-M.E. (F, 12%).
Collins’ gun control proposal survived the motion as 54 senators voted to keep the proposal alive, but the vote also demonstrated Collins proposal did not have the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster.
Therefore, not having 51 votes to table the proposal or 60 votes to pass the Collins proposal, the Senate is effectively stuck.
And stuck on a debate of gun control, not terrorism, or protecting the Second Amendment, but gun control. The exact topic and terrain that Democrats want to discuss. The result? A divided Republican party in the Senate and forcing vulnerable Senators in general election races to take high profile gun control votes. Meanwhile the media runs with the preferred Democrat narrative that their proposal has bipartisan support.
The overall narrative on display to the Republican base plays into the critique and reality that Washington Republicans are not principled, they will do anything to show they can “govern”, and absolutely incapable of standing on principle.
The sad truth is that this entire scenario was absolutely avoidable if Republicans in the Senate had competent leadership. (For more from the author of “How McConnell Botched the Senate’s Response to Orlando” please click HERE)