Politics

04.10.13

A Deal on Guns in the Senate

I'm not sure if good news can be both limited on the one hand and amazing on the other, but if such is possible this is it.

Joe Manchin and Pat Toomey are holding a press conference today around 11 to say that they've struck a deal on a background checks bill. HuffPo reports that details are still a little foggy but one element is that checks "would be done through a federal firearm license holder instead of through an online portal -- a policy win for gun control advocates."

Now: The deal is just to allow debate to begin, really. You all know about "cloture" and the 60-vote thing. What you may not be clear on is that most bills need to get 60 votes at least twice, some of them more. This bill would need 60 again to cut off debate and proceed to final passage, where a simple majority of 51 can finally pass a bill.

So having a deal on 60 votes to open debate does not necessarily mean that there will be 60 votes to cut off debate. And in between, Republicans will be allowed to offer amendments, and they could offer amendments that would turn the bill into nothing.

So there is a long, long way to go. Chris Hayes and his guests were jumping the gun as it were a bit last night, assuming that Republicans who agree to open debate couldn't get away with doing something as cheesily transparent as voting to let the bill move forward and then voting against it on final passage, or even at the cut-off-debate stage.

But I am told by a Senate Democratic source to expect exactly this. Up to 12 Republicans are ready to allow the bill to move forward now, but the expectation is that most or all would vote against final passage, depending on what the final version looks like.

Still, this is a big deal. You can bet Wayne LaPierre is not happy today. It's a crack in the NRA wall. It speaks well of Obama that he hasn't given up this fight, which everyone has been telling him for weeks was utterly hopeless, and it's been the strong inside-outside pressure that has brought things to this point. Which means that more strong inside-outside pressure, well, who knows.

But this bears out, I think, what I've been writing. The NRA might not be beaten this time, but the cracks in the wall will spread. The process of weakening their iron grip on Congress is a long one. Whatever ultimately happens, today is a noteworthy day in that process.