Nope, Just Do It, Part I

From TPM Reader JB, in response to JH’s caution to Obama on gun control …

One of your correspondents asked today whether the Obama administration’s effort to move gun violence legislation was a politically foolish diversion from its interest in passing immigration legislation. I really don’t think it is.

The regular legislative order provides opportunities to prepare legislation on multiple subjects, with significant input from the executive branch if that’s what the President wants. It is, of course, true that Senate procedures — legislation favored by the administration would need to originate in the Senate — also provide opportunities to block legislation. That, however, is also true of the Obama administration’s evident preference where procedure is concerned, legislation moved by the party leadership directly on the floor.

There are Democratic Senators on the Judiciary Committee prepared to carry the administration’s water on guns, and other Senators prepared to do the same on immigration. So move ahead with both. Hearings, subcommittee, full committee, floor: the regular order doesn’t keep the spotlight as constantly on President Obama himself as he normally likes, but it will be back on him as soon as the Senate votes. Which, I suspect, it may be more likely to do on guns if the Democrats are trying to move both a gun bill (which the NRA, sorry, Republican Senators will oppose) and immigration (which the Republican leadership appears to be in the process of deciding it needs to act on) at the same time.

People have heard and read so much campaign news and commentary for so long that they fret themselves way too much about timing, message control, hitting the sweet spot of specific constituencies: the staples of the campaign environment. Immigration needs to be dealt with; guns — a significantly less complicated issue as far as the substance is concerned — can’t be ignored after Newtown. So, do what the regular order allows you to do.

Yes, the Republicans can do what the NRA orders them to do on guns. There isn’t any guarantee of success (that is, of enactment of meaningful legislation) no matter what procedural tack is tried on that issue. It would be a mistake to do as your correspondent suggests, following the President’s moving statements after the Newtown massacre with a tacit confession of his, and our, impotence to prevent more massacres just like it.