Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Murphy Blows Up A Compromise

Shortly after U.S. Senator Chris Murphy concluded his 15 hour filibuster – which was awarded three out of four Pinocchios by the left of center Washington Post -- he received plaudits from the usual corners of the Democratic Party barracks. All seven Members of Connecticut’s U.S. Congressional Delegation heaped praise upon Mr. Murphy, which must have come as a relief to the Senator, because it released him of the embarrassing necessity of praising himself.

For a while there it was nip and tuck. A meeting of the minds between Republicans, who control both houses of Congress, and Democrats was a distinct possibility.  Before Mr. Murphy’s filibuster, Senate Republicans had proposed an amendment to a background check measure offer by Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein of California. The Republican amendment was, according to a story in the Hartford Courant, a compromise attempt designed to correct what many felt was a defect in the watch-list measure supported by virtually all Democrats, including Senators Dick Blumenthal and Chris Murphy.

Attempts to deny gun permits to people on the no-fly watch list would ensnare people whose names had appeared incorrectly on the list, improperly denying them their constitutional right to bear arms. Pennsylvania Republican Pat Toomey supported the watch list proposal but sought to refine the Feinstein amendment by offering a “fix” that would allow the government to limit for 72 hours firearm sales to those whose names appeared on the top secret list, after which prosecutors would be compelled to seek from a judge an order permanently interdicting the sale. Republicans did not want a bill that violated Constitutional due process. In the land of the free and the home of the brave, citizens still have a right to due process before their Constitutional immunities are violated by an administration that – along with the Red Queen in Lewis Carrol’s “Through the Looking Glass” – thinks it unobjectionable to have a sentence precede a verdict.  

Everything changed when an Islamic terrorist who had announced his affiliation with ISIS stormed a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida and slaughtered 49 people, wounding another 50. Following the slaughter in Orlando, leading Democrats decided to engage in a filibuster, putting a halt to all Senate business, which included a vote on an appropriation bill providing funding for the FBI, the Justice Department and other agencies.

A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell registered his disappointment: “Sen. Murphy's [filibuster] effort today prevents the Senate from processing any amendments, including amendments he supports, as well as efforts proposed by Republicans to help prevent terrorist attacks here at home.”

As if to underscore the point, Mr. Murphy delivered a message to the Washington Post just hours before “the Senate was due to vote on four gun-related amendments to a pending appropriations bill — two proposed by Democrats, two proposed by Republicans.” The Post reported, “’We’ve got to make this clear, constant case that Republicans have decided to sell weapons to ISIS,’ Murphy said, using an alternative term for the Islamic State militant group. ‘That’s what they’ve decided to do. ISIS has decided that the assault weapon is the new airplane, and Republicans, in refusing to close the terror gap, refusing to pass bans on assault weapons, are allowing these weapons to get in the hands of potential lone-wolf attackers. We’ve got to make this connection and make it in very stark terms.’”

This is not how Congressmen generally win friends and influence people prior to a vote. Mr. Murphy is Connecticut’s Junior Senator, the state’s Senior Senator being Dick Blumenthal, but both Senators must know that campaign dynamite blows up compromise measures. Mr. Murphy’s filibuster and his pre-vote, intemperate slur on Republicans successfully scuttled a compromise on a serious issue, one in which Congressmen from opposite political parties had been approaching a meeting of the minds. It is important to notice that even the much maligned NRA was willing to sign off on a measure that would have denied gun sales to those on the watch list – provided Constitutional due process rights had been protected.

Following the filibuster and Mr. Murphy’s pre-vote pugnacity, all four measures were voted down – including the most promising compromise amendment, which nearly passed on a 53-60 vote.

The vote on the linkage of a watch list to gun sales was lost, but the issue was saved as a campaign battering ram.  Given the abject and obvious failure of President Barack Obama's and Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy, Democrats will need a distraction in the upcoming Presidential elections to draw public attention away from a “lead from behind foreign policy” that has strengthened the hand of ISIS both at home and abroad. The ISIS terrorist who murdered gays in Orlando was a registered Democrat, a connection that is entirely meaningless, quite like the connection Mr. Murphy hopes to establish in the upcoming campaign between Republicans and ISIS, once thought to be a junior-varsity terrorist club.

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