We’re all thinking about health care reform and if Congress can really come through for us on an issue that touches us all. At the same time, I suppose you’re asking what this issue is doing on the outdoor page.
The answer is, I might have found a way for our the-end-justifies-the-means Congress to pass meaningful health care reform without hurting their NRA grade.
Back on May 27, I wrote about the so-called MasterBlaster Bill, where pro-gun senators and representatives showed their power by attaching and forcing a vote on an amendment to codify a Bush administration rule to allow loaded, concealed firearms in national parks and wildlife refuges onto a sure-to-pass bill reforming credit card regulations.
It was a political shocker–a rapid, veto-proof, heavily bipartisan vote over the objections of congressional leaders and the U.S. Attorney General’s office. The exact vote was 67-29 in the Senate and 279-147 in the House, with 105 Democratic representatives and 27 Democratic senators joining the super majorities.
This makes me wonder if we could do it again, only in reverse. Instead of struggling–and probably failing–to pass a health care bill, let’s attach it as an amendment to a gun rights bill and watch it speed through Congress.
This is how Congress works nowadays, you know. Everything we pass is a rider or earmark on a must-pass bill, which might now include gun rights legislation.
If you haven’t noticed, the gun lobby is hardly taking a vacation after its huge MasterBlaster bill victory and the historic U.S. Supreme Court decision on the Heller v. D.C. case that reaffirmed the individual’s right to bear arms.
There is another big case, incidentally, NRA v. Chicago, on its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which would extend the Heller v. D.C. decision to also apply to state and local governments.
And there are at least three pro-gun bills working their way through Congress right now such as:
H.R. 197, The National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act. This bill, introduced in the Representatives Cliff Stearns’ (R-FL.) and Rick Boucher (D-VA.) with 138 co-sponsors, would allow any person with a valid carry permit or license issued by a state to carry a concealed firearm in any other state if the permit holder meets certain criteria. This bill recently failed in the Senate on a unanimous consent vote, which requires a super majority, but nonetheless, netted 58 votes, two short of the required 60–and more than enough to pass it in the normal legislative process
S. 941/H.R. 2296, The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Reform and Firearms Modernization Act. Senator Mike Crapo (R-ID) and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT.) have introduced S. 941, with seven co-sponsors including Jon Tester (D-MT) and James Risch (R-ID). Representatives Steve King (R-IA) and Zack Space (D-OH), with 123 co-sponsors including Dennis Rehberg (R-MT) and Walter Minnick (D-ID), have introduced the companion bill in the House, H.R. 2296. These bills would roll back restrictions gun rights groups consider unnecessary, correct errors, and codify longstanding congressional policies.
H.R. 442, The Veterans’ Heritage Firearms Act. This bill introduced by Congressman Dennis Rehberg (R-MT), would provide a 90-day amnesty period during which veterans and their family members could register currently illegal firearms such as machine guns, acquired overseas during WWII, Korean and Vietnam Wars without fear of prosecution. Congress already did this once, back in 1968, but most veterans did not receive enough notice to participate.
If one of those bills won’t work as a must-pass “rider delivery service” for health care reform, let’s go big time and introduce a repeal of the Brady Bill of 1993, which requires background checks and waiting periods, or Gun Control Act of 1968, which prohibits interstate transfer of firearms, or even the National Firearms Act of 1934, which bans the manufacture and sale of automatic weapons. That would make a few headlines, eh?
Better yet, let’s skip years of court action to extend Heller v. D.C. decision to states and cities by dropping a bill to codify it, just like the gun guys did to resoundingly win the Battle of the National Parks. Two-thirds (33 out of 50) of state attorney generals, including all those in the Rocky Mountain West, have supported the NRA with “friend of the court” amices briefs. So, this should be a lay-up for most members of Congress who wouldn’t want any anti-gun vote on their records to reduce their NRA grade–and score a little health care reform as a bonus. What politician would vote against health care reform and guns at the same time?
Am I being a little facetious? Yep, a little.