Lame Ducks: WWDD – What Would Democrats Do?
By Jeff Knox
(November 15, 2018) As the dust settles and final tallies trickle in – and recounts begin – we now know the general makeup of the 116th Congress. The election results were disappointing for GunVoters, but they weren’t the disaster that many predicted, and that was certainly a possibility.
At this point it looks like Democrats will hold a significant majority in the House, while Republicans will maintain their slim majority in the Senate. That means that we will see gridlock on the legislative front from Congress, so unless Republicans act aggressively right now, during the lame duck session pending the congressional rollover in January, the scant hope of passing national recognition of legal discreet carry, deregulation of silencers, and passage of the Lawful Purposes Act, all go out the window, dying with the close of the 115th Congress.
House Democrats have already begun making promises to push for votes on gun control measures in the new congress, with Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), the presumptive incoming Speaker of the House, saying that she will call for a vote on another Manchin-Toomey type bill criminalizing private firearm transfers. A Representative from New Jersey has also just introduced a new bill to outlaw 3D printed firearms, “undetectable” firearms, 80% receivers, and various parts kits. This proposal mirrors a bill that was introduced in the New Jersey Legislature, as that state tries to surpass California as the nation’s leading state for gun control. The federal bill isn’t going anywhere, but it does show where Democrats would like to go, and the folks in New Jersey, with their new Democrat governor, are going to have a serious fight on their hands.
We’re all in favor of Pelosi pushing for votes on gun control. As we’ve often said, guns win, and we like having record votes. There is some valid concern that this president has demonstrated a willingness to “work with” the Democrats on a variety of issues, and his commitment to the Second Amendment has wobbled upon occasion. There are also a number of Republicans in both the House and Senate, who have proven to be unreliable on rights issues, and who are likely to break ranks with their party, providing cover for Democrats from conservative states who want to avoid going on record with an anti-rights vote. That kind of chicanery hurts the Republican brand, and makes it harder to determine which politicians truly support the right to arms, and which are merely serving as political weather vanes. Still, we strongly support the idea of record votes on rights issues whenever we can get them.
Right now though, while Republicans still control both the House and Senate, as well as the White House they could at least try to push the pro-rights agenda forward before the Democrats take over the House in January.
At the top of the GunVoter wishlist is the National Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act, H.R.38, which was passed by the House a year ago and has been sitting in the Senate Judiciary Committee ever since. The Firearms Coalition urged Senate Republicans to pass this bill out of the Judiciary Committee and bring it to a vote on the Senate floor prior to the November election, but our pleas fell on deaf ears, and no effort was made to bring the bill to a vote. The votes were there in the Judiciary Committee, as long as retiring Arizona Senator Jeff Flake didn’t flake out, but getting the votes to overcome a Democrat filibuster was doubtful. That wasn’t the point though. The idea was to force the hands of supposedly pro-rights senators like Joe Manchin (D-WV) and John Tester (D-MT), both of whom managed to win reelection. A vote on national concealed carry would have put a number of Democrats in a tough spot, and could have provided the ammunition needed to build a more solid, true pro-rights majority in the Senate.
That bill is still sitting in the Judiciary Committee, and could still be used to force Democrats’ hands during the lame duck session. The SHARE Act, which includes both the Hearing Protection Act, and the Lawful Purpose Act, was passed out of the House Natural Resources Committee over a year ago, but has also been sitting dormant ever since. House leadership has thus far refused to bring the bill to a floor vote, resulting in more excuses for GunVoters to walk away, voting with upraised middle fingers rather than actively working to hold a pro-rights majority in the House.
In the past, we have seen Democrats aggressively press their agenda during lame duck sessions after losing their majority, but for some inexplicable reason, Republicans never seem inclined to exploit the opportunity.
We do expect to see Senate Republicans actively working to confirm judges during their remaining month and a half, which is generally a good thing, though their majority in the next Congress will allow those efforts to continue with little delay next year. The same can’t be said for pending pro-rights legislation. When this Congress adjourns, those bills expire, and they won’t be back again for at least two more years.
Talking a good pro-Second Amendment game while actually doing little to excite and engage GunVoters is a traditional Republican approach, but has never been a winning strategy. Calls and letters to House and Senate leadership, as well as the Senate Judiciary Committee, might help to wake them up to the need to take some action on these bills.
It’s always good to know where our politicians really stand, and the only way to find that out is by getting them on the record with votes. You can reach members of Congress and their leadership by calling the Congressional Switchboard at 202-224-3121.