The final vote came Friday evening at 6:30 as the House voted 217-213 to pass a modest assault weapons ban. 5 reactionary Democrats voted with the Republicans against it. If not for two Republicans voting aye— Brian Fitzpatrick (PA) and Chris Jacobs (NY)— it would have failed. The Democrats who voted for the continued slaughter of American school children:
Henry Cuellar (Blue Dog-TX)
Jared Golden (Blue Dog-ME)
Vicente Gonzalez (Blue Dog-TX)
Ron Kind (New Dem-WI)
Kurt Schrader (Blue Dog-OR)
Schrader was already convincingly defeated by Democrats in his Oregon district and without the interference on his behalf by Pelosi, Hoyer, Clyburn, Jeffries and their allies, Cuellar would have been as well. Kind is retiring voluntarily, knowing he would probably not win reelection and both Golden and Gonzalez are in deep jeopardy in November and unlikely to be able to solidify the Democratic base in their districts.
Mark Neumann is the progressive running for the western Wisconsin congressional seat Kind has decided to give up. Predictably, Kind is supporting another reactionary like himself, Brad Pfaff, a conservative state senator. This afternoon he said he doesn’t understand why Kind voted against the assault weapons ban. “Sometimes I hear people quibble over what qualifies as an assault weapon. It's not hard for me. Any device that is made that can be used to kill many people quickly, is a serious hazard for health in a community. I believe we all want to live in safety and security in our communities. This includes the reduction of all health and safety hazards wherever we find them. Any device that can kill and injure people quickly should simply not be tolerated in our communities... call it whatever you want. So what could possibly be the downside for an elected representative to vote in support of limiting a health hazard like semiautomatic assault weapons and large capacity ammunition feeding devices? Usually we blame it on the possibility of their losing campaign financing support from gun manufacturers. But Mr. Kind has chosen to not run for reelection this year. So, no risk there... you might think. On the other hand he has heavily endorsed one of the other candidates in my primary election race. I am unhappy that he feels entitled to try to place his thumb on a scale in our race, but I am quite happy that his gun lobby supportive thumb is not pushing on the scale of my campaign. Good luck to my opponent for overcoming the stench of gunpowder from his assault weapons supporter.”
Reporting for the Washington Post yesterday, Marianna Sotomayor wrote that the bill faces virtually no chance of passage in the Senate because of a knee jerk filibuster by the NRA allies despite polling that shows most Americans would like to see the ban in place.
The vote was kind of last minute and Pelosi announced it Friday morning as the House was getting ready to go invocation for a month. Were the Senate to overcome the filibuster, the legislation would make it a crime to possess, sell, manufacture, import, transfer an assault weapon or a large capacity ammunition feeding device, although most assault weapons would be grandfathered in so the “possess” part of the bill isn’t really anything.
Sotomayor reported that Schrader, the first and one of the only members of Congress endorsed by Biden this year, “said he voted against the legislation Friday because getting ‘rid of semiautomatic weapons undermines the Second Amendment,’ an argument echoed by Republicans. Gonzalez previously noted that banning assault weapons may not end mass shootings, citing that high-capacity magazines and bump stocks— which are currently banned under executive order— can still kill people quickly.”
The fate of the ban initially was tied to a package of public safety bills that included, among other measures, community funding to curb violence and legislation dissolving a civil liability law protecting gunmakers. But an initial bipartisan proposal to double funds for local law enforcement grants issued by the Justice Department was met with skepticism from members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and the Congressional Black Caucus. The impasse led to a delay in considering the entire package.
But overnight Thursday, members of the CBC struck a deal with Reps. Abigail Spanberger (Blue Dog-VA) and Josh Gottheimer (Blue Dog-NJ) to add language to a public safety bill that includes additional accountability measures tied to receiving the funds.
The CPC learned late Thursday night about the deal, infuriating members about not being involved in the process, according to multiple lawmakers and aides who spoke on the condition of anonymity to detail private conversations. Moreover, several members remained irate that they would have to vote to fund the police in order to vote on the assault weapons ban. Many in the liberal caucus spent Friday morning pushing to uncouple the assault weapons ban from the public safety package and hold separate votes.
Numerous civil rights groups, including the ACLU, wrote letters to Democratic leadership Friday morning asking them to not consider Spanberger’s bipartisan bill, which is co-sponsored by Rep. Tom Rice (R-SC).
Detaching the assault weapons ban from the rest of the public safety package, however, was risky. Numerous Democrats previously said they would vote against it or were leaning that way because they did not agree with a full ban.
But front-line Democrats were exasperated when leadership decided to postpone a vote on the public safety bills until the middle of August, instead siding with liberals to pass the assault weapons ban Friday, according to several people familiar with the group’s discussions. Many vulnerable Democrats were livid, threatening to sink a procedural vote that was necessary to pass the legislation.
Kind signaled he would vote against the ban early Friday out of frustration, noting that the increased funding for DOJ grants is something “my folks need more of back home.”
“Last-minute legislating was never really a good way to put a package together, especially one that’s so important as this,” he said, echoing several Democrats who have raised concern over how quickly some bills are being brought to the floor by leaders. “You would hope that there would be a little more time to vet and to consider some of the problems with the legislation before they just rush it to the floor.”
Vulnerable Democratic members have been pressing leaders to consider messaging bills that would fund police departments, hoping to strip Republicans from attacking them as soft on crime. It’s a campaign message many members still feel cost them a significant number of seats during the 2020 election.
Democratic candidates are using yesterday's vote against their GOP opponents. This morning, for example, Christine Olivo in South Florida told her supporters that "This was Diaz-Balart’s second opportunity in less than a month to ensure a safer community for the families in district 26. He did not vote for the bi-partisan gun legislation, without any clear reason why. So, I am not surprised that he did not vote for the assault weapons ban. Once again, he has proved to us that his loyalty is to the NRA and not to his constituents."