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Filibuster Reform Mixes With Gun Control Needs

March 24, 2021

There is a truism in the television news profession that if it bleeds, it leads. But conversely, if there is no way to have video footage that compellingly tells a story it makes the reporting effort more difficult. Or story that is not covered, at all.

With the emotional outpouring this week, as two mass shootings gripped the nation comes the strong desire from the White House down to the suburban moms that this time legislation needs to be passed in Congress. With Democrats in charge of all branches of government and with Senator Manchin, the author of a past background check bill, means there is a solid argument to be made this is the time of action in this session for gun control measures.

This brings us to the profoundly troubling matter of the senate filibuster. This is the perfect storm when it comes to the timing of a national dialogue about the faults with that tool used by a minority of senators over the decades so to thwart ideas and proposed laws.

The nation absolutely wants national background checks on all gun sales and limitations on sales of assault weapons. Polling data continuously underscores those goals. Meanwhile, the media need to have a current and concrete example to report on how a filibuster operates, and the consequences of prolonging its life in the chamber. If the use of the filibuster were to threaten the very legislative measures that the nation demands so to assist in curtailing mass shootings and deadly gun violence there would be the prime civics example playing out for all to see.

Democrats could then act in concert with the national needs, and go to voters in midterm elections and beyond and report they did the work of the nation. Promises made and kept are still popular with the citizenry.

I am an avid fan of Robert Caro, as his treatment of Lyndon Johnson in volume after volume has been a labor of intense research and devotion. We await his final tome on the most energetic politician in American history. His hundreds of pages devoted to the Senate filibusters that ended the need for passage of civil rights legislation, over and over, is the lesson too many have sadly forgotten. The abuse of the institutional tool in the hands of the minority has proven to be a troubling and injurious device.

One can make the argument that those who wish its demise today will rue that development when Republicans get the majority and run roughshod in the chamber. But, with the changing demographics and the narrowing of the white male base, it can also be argued that the GOP will be required to find new policy paths so as to be viable as a party. They can not act crazily without electoral repercussions. Therefore, I am not one who fears removing the filibuster.

The bottom line remains there is a most incredible and politically exciting moment arising as Senate neanderthals try to push back what the nation is demanding regarding gun legislation. They will use the filibuster, and in so doing make the case for why it is time to abolish it.

The nation is watching this time.

And so it goes.

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