Guns on a Train

Senate Tells Amtrak, "No Guns, No Money."

Shenanigans in play!

(Washington, DC, Update September 18, 2009) The US Senate has voted 68-30 in favor of a measure which would deny $1.6 Billion taxpayer dollars for the beleaguered Amtrak passenger train system unless they change their "No Guns" policy.

Since the Madrid commuter train bombing in 2004 Amtrak has maintained a policy of no guns or weapons on their trains – even locked in checked baggage.  The amendment passed by the Senate today was sponsored by Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS) says that Amtrak must accept checked baggage containing firearms or starter pistols as long as the passenger declares the firearm at the time of check in and the gun is unloaded and locked in a hard-sided case.  The measure also provides for the lawful transport of ammunition in checked baggage.

Opponents raised objections based on the cost of implementing the liberalized regulations, but those arguments rang hollow and the measure passed easily. 

 Now for the shenanigans:

Even though the amendment passed easily – with a few surprising (and suspicious) votes in favor – this is not a done deal.  Since the Senate version of the underlying appropriations bill is now different from the version passed in the House, there must be a Reconciliation Conference to bring the two versions into line.  For a conference, both houses select a number of representatives who are supposed to go sit down together and hash out their differences, settling on a final bill they believe will be acceptable in both houses.  That version of the bill is then sent to the floors of the House and the Senate where it receives an up or down vote.  No amendments are accepted for a reconciled bill.  While this amendment passed by a vote of 68 to 30, the prospects of it surviving the reconciliation process seem pretty slim.  Even though the conference committee is weighted with 13 members who voted for the amendment and 8 who voted against it, + 1, Byrd of WV, who did not vote, those numbers can be deceptive. 

Of the 22 members of the committee, 12 are rated "F" by GOA with 3 rated "D," 1 rated "C," 2 rated "B," and only 4 rated "A."   Additionally, virtually all of the "F" rated members who voted for the amendment are "bullet proof," hailing from states where liberty is a lost art and there is little likelihood of successfully defeating them at the ballot box.

Given those facts, it is very probable that Senate leadership chose to allow the amendment to pass with the intention of stripping it out in conference.  It will be interesting to see whether the House also appoints staunch anti-gunners as the majority of their conference representatives.  Stay tuned. 

Below is a breakdown of the vote and the Senate representatives to the Conference Committee.


YEAs —68

Alexander (R-TN)   *A-*
Barrasso (R-WY)
Baucus (D-MT)
Bayh (D-IN)
Begich (D-AK)
Bennet (D-CO)
Bennett (R-UT)   *B*
Bingaman (D-NM)
Bond (R-MO)   *A*
Brownback (R-KS)   *B*
Bunning (R-KY)
Burr (R-NC)
Casey (D-PA)
Chambliss (R-GA)
Coburn (R-OK)
Cochran (R-MS)   *C*
Collins (R-ME)

Conrad (D-ND)
Corker (R-TN)
Cornyn (R-TX)
Crapo (R-ID)
DeMint (R-SC)
Dorgan (D-ND)  *F*

Ensign (R-NV)
Enzi (R-WY)
Feingold (D-WI)
Graham (R-SC)
Grassley (R-IA)
Gregg (R-NH)
Hagan (D-NC)
Hatch (R-UT)
Hutchison (R-TX)   *A*
Inhofe (R-OK)
Isakson (R-GA)
Johanns (R-NE)
Johnson (D-SD)  *D*
Klobuchar (D-MN)
Kohl (D-WI)   *F-*
Kyl (R-AZ)
Landrieu (D-LA)
LeMieux (R-FL)
Leahy (D-VT)  *F*
Lincoln (D-AR)
Lugar (R-IN)
McCain (R-AZ)
McCaskill (D-MO)

McConnell (R-KY)
Merkley (D-OR)
Murkowski (R-AK)
Nelson (D-FL)
Nelson (D-NE)
Reid (D-NV)
Risch (R-ID)
Roberts (R-KS)
Sanders (I-VT)
Sessions (R-AL)
Shaheen (D-NH)
Shelby (R-AL)   *A*
Snowe (R-ME)
Tester (D-MT)
Thune (R-SD)
Udall (D-CO)
Udall (D-NM)
Vitter (R-LA)
Voinovich (R-OH)   *D*
Warner (D-VA)
Webb (D-VA)
Wicker (R-MS)



NAYs —30

Akaka (D-HI)
Boxer (D-CA)
Brown (D-OH)
Burris (D-IL)
Cantwell (D-WA)
Cardin (D-MD)
Carper (D-DE)
Dodd (D-CT)
Durbin (D-IL)  *F-*
Feinstein (D-CA)  *F-*

Franken (D-MN)
Gillibrand (D-NY)
Harkin (D-IA)  *F*
Inouye (D-HI)   *F*
Kaufman (D-DE)
Kerry (D-MA)
Lautenberg (D-NJ)  *F-*
Levin (D-MI)
Lieberman (ID-CT)
Menendez (D-NJ)

Mikulski (D-MD) *F*
Murray (D-WA)  
Pryor (D-AR)
Reed (D-RI)
Rockefeller (D-WV)
Schumer (D-NY)
Specter (D-PA)   *D*
Stabenow (D-MI)
Whitehouse (D-RI)
Wyden (D-OR)


Not Voting – 1

Byrd (D-WV)  *F*




 Senate Conference Committee

  1. Murray         F

  2. Byrd             F

  3. Mikulski        F

  4. Kohl             F-

  5. Durbin          F-

  6. Dorgan         F

  7. Leahy           F

  8. Harkin          F

  9. Feinstein       F-

10. Johnson        D

11. Lautenberg    F-


  12. Specter          D

  13. Inouye          F

  14. Bond             A

  15. Shelby          A

  16. Bennett          B

  17. Hutchison      A

  18. Brownback    B

  19. Alexander      A-

  20. Collins           F

  21. Voinovich     D

  22. Cochran       C



  12 F’s

    3 D’s

    1 C

    2 B’s

    4 A’s