The contrast between Arizona’s two senators, both Democrats, could not be starker in their response Wednesday to passing legislation after a shooting at a Texas elementary school left at least 21 dead.
After Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) expressed her conviction that Americans want Congress to act, a reporter asked the senator if she’d be willing to reform or create a carveout to the filibuster to give gun legislation a shot at actually passing.
“You know, I don’t think that D.C. solutions are realistic here,” Sinema said. “But there are things that we can do. There’s some shared agreement on red flag, which I think might be a place to start conversations to actually get something done for real that would make a difference to people.”
Republicans, many of whom rely heavily on the NRA and the broader gun lobby for support, have demonstrated repeatedly that they don’t have any interest in passing meaningful gun control legislation. Most of them push for the opposite: to make guns more commonplace in American life. Just hours after the shooting, lawmakers such as Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) were advocating for more armed people in schools.
Sen. Mark Kelly (D-AZ), who has governed much more like a typical Democrat than Sinema has, had a very different response.
“It’s fucking nuts to do nothing about this,” he told reporters.
Kelly’s wife, former Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-AZ), was shot in the head in 2011 at an event for constituents to talk with their representative. She survived and is now a gun control advocate.
Kelly, unlike Sinema, voted to reform the filibuster back in January when the underlying legislation that Republicans were blocking centered on voting and election reform. Sinema and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) joined all of the Republicans in voting down the Senate rule change that would have let Democrats pass the bill.
Manchin also made clear Wednesday that he’s still prioritizing maintaining the filibuster over passing gun reform.
“The filibuster should not be needed at all,” he told reporters. “We’d be talking about throwing out the one tool we have that keeps us working, at least talking, together. Without that, you get no checks and balances — you and I talked before about that — from the executive branch, no matter who that may be.”
“Everyone wants to go just to the filibuster, filibuster, filibuster, get rid of that,” he added. “That’s the easy way out.”
It’s unclear what Manchin means about the executive branch’s checks and balances, as the President can veto a bill passed with the filibuster or one passed without.
Democratic efforts to join with Republicans and pass gun control legislation have flared up and sputtered out time and time again, often in the wake of a mass shooting in some way more horrific than those to which we have become accustomed.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) on Tuesday night scheduled votes on two bills, both of which would tighten background checks on gun purchasers. But as soon as Wednesday morning, he was striking a defeated tone.
“Americans can cast their vote in November for senators or members of Congress that reflect how he or she stands with guns, with this issue at the top of voters’ lists,” he said from the Senate floor. “In the meantime, my Republican colleagues can work with us now. I know this is a slim prospect, very slim, all too slim. We’ve been burnt so many times before.”