Something truly remarkable happened Thursday on Capitol Hill. Senators agreed to talk to each other.
Sixty-eight senators, eight more than required, voted to proceed with a debate on gun control legislation. Sixteen Republicans voted with 52 Democrats to proceed, while two Democrats voted with 29 Republicans to block debate.
Now that the threatened filibuster has been broken, senators can consider amendments and have a chance to bring the bill to a final, up or down vote. That's precisely why we have legislators in the first place of course..
I applaud the 68 Senators whose affirmative votes allowed for this bill to move past the threat of filibuster. These 68 are letting the conversation play out in the Senate, a conversation the American people are desperate to have.
The bill advanced on Thursday would strengthen a requirement that gun purchasers submit to a criminal background check, covering thousands of sales annual the currently are outside the scope of the law. Ninety-two percent of the American people support expanded background checks according to a Quinnipac University poll. Surely this merits a conversation and vote on the floor of the Senate.
Whether you support gun reform measures or not, the issue is one people care about deeply. Shouldn't those we elect to represent us actually speak about such concerns on the floor?
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid asserted "we cannot have a few senators spoiling everything for everyone here."
Reid's right, but the unfortunate truth is that on dozens of other issues he has let a few senators spoil everything for everyone else. The Democratic leader earlier this year cut a deal with Republicans that made only modest changes to the Senate's filibuster rule, letting a minority of senators block majority rule on most issues.
Americans depend upon a functional legislature to deliver a functional government. And to function, a legislature must engage in debate. Workers in other settings can't very well show up for work, sit down at their desks and refuse to speak to any colleagues who have a projects they don't particularly fancy. We shouldn't tolerate that from senators.
If a majority ultimately can't agree on a gun measure and ultimately it is voted down, that is the legislative process in action. But every bill that comes to the Senate floor ought be able to move forward without a requirement that it get a 60-vote supermajority just to launch debate..
Thursday's vote was a victory for Senate functionality. But we certainly have a long way to go.
Office: Common Cause National