Today's Ringside Seat: Gun Bill—Bang or Whimper?

At the moment, there are 45 Republicans in the United States Senate, a number sufficient to give them the ability, should they so choose, to filibuster anything and everything. And choose they do, with only the rarest of exceptions. But we may be about to see one of those rare exceptions, on a piece of legislation regulating guns. Maybe.

 You see, for the legislation to succeed, Democrats must first defeat a Republican filibuster in order to begin debate on the bill, and then they must defeat another Republican filibuster to end debate on the bill and have an actual vote. According to late reports, as many as seven Senate Republicans have said they'll vote to allow debate to begin, though they won't say whether they'll vote to allow it to end.

We don't yet know exactly what they'll be debating, if the debate does begin, but chances are it will involve expanded background checks and a crackdown on illegal gun trafficking. You might be asking how anyone could object to any of that, and few Americans would. But some of those few just happen to be members of the Senate, and you can safely ignore public opinion as long as you don't actually have to go on record against it. Nine in ten Americans favor universal background checks, but most of them probably have no idea whether their representatives in Congress agree. And let's be honest—even after the votes are counted, most voters probably still won't know.

Harry Reid, the Democratic majority leader, said today that the cloture motion to end the first filibuster could come tonight, and there could be a final vote on a bill as early as Thursday. That bill may well be something watered-down, particularly since NRA allies Joe Manchin and Pat Toomey are negotiating one version of a background-check bill; if you're waiting for those two to produce something tough, you'll probably be disappointed. Either way, though, we'll soon find out whether all the excruciating processes the Senate can muster produce a bill that might actually make an impact—or a bill that does next to nothing.

So They Say

“There's nothing worse than a friendless Tweeter."

Bill Clinton, in an interview with Stephen Colbert

 Daily Meme: Secrets, Secrets Are So Fun

  • Mother Jones' secret video division released a sequel to the 47-percent scandal- spawning 2012 blockbuster hit today. The revelation this time? Mitch McConnell was really looking forward to demolishing Ashley Judd.
  • Joe Coscarelli describes the tape's content thusly: "This is opposition research as an episode of E! True Hollywood Story, and it is raw."
  • Or as Mitch McConnell puts it at the start of the audio, which was taken from a campaign meeting held at his Kentucky headquarters, "I assume most of you have played the, the game Whac-A-Mole? This is the Whac-A-Mole period of the campaign."
  • Or as an aide phrased it later on, "I refer to [Judd] as sort of the oppo research situation where there's a haystack of needles, just because truly, there's such a wealth of material."
  • Republicans are, unsurprisingly, freaking out. An email sent by the NRSC this morning had the subject head: “MCCONNELL CAMPAIGN HQ BUGGED, DOJ/FBI INVESTIGATION IMMINENT? Stay tuned after this popped on Mother Jones overnight."
  • The McConnell re-election campaign is calling for an FBI investigation. "Obviously a recording device of some kind was placed in Senator McConnell's campaign office without consent. By whom and how that was accomplished will presumably be the subject of a criminal investigation. We've always said the Left will stop at nothing to attack Sen. McConnell, but Watergate-style tactics to bug campaign headquarters is above and beyond."
  • They've also seized on the moment as a fundraising opportunity.
  • Who knows who recorded the video, but as The Weekly Standard gleefully points out, they broke Kentucky law.
  • Mother Jones's David Corn responded to some reporters covering the story, saying: “Our lawyers vetted the story. The story itself says we were provided the tape by a source who wishes to remain anonymous. You know this job. I really can’t say much beyond that.”
  • The magazine also responded, saying "It is our understanding that the tape was not the product of a Watergate-style bugging operation. We cannot comment beyond that."
  • Harry Reid's response? “I’ve read some cursory reports of that. Other than that I don’t know anything. I know I didn’t have anything to do with it.”
  • In other news, Mitch McConnell remains the least popular senator in the country. This latest spate of press seems unlikely to help things.
  • But since he's already raised $12 million toward a re-election bid that is over a year away, maybe he thinks he can spend away all the secret videos. But as we've learned from the Romney campaign handbook, this could be wishful thinking. 
  • Even so, as GOP consultant Rick Wilson reminds us, it's unwise to count McConnell out, ever. "Don't let that softspoken thing fool you. He'll cut a bitch."

What We're Writing

  • Labor has often been as wary of the environmental lobby as it has of management, and Sarah Laskow has found that in the battle over the Keystone XL, unions are coming down on (and against) both sides.
  • Given the GOP's disastrous recent track-record on rape and women's rights, you might expect Republicans to be backing off. Not so, says Abby Rapoport—conservative states are getting even more extreme about reproductive rights.

What We're Reading

  • Ann Friedman shows, using Margaret Thatcher as a prime example, why women politicians aren't always pro-women. 
  • The New Yorker asks senators: If you went ahead with meaningful gun control, what's the worst that could happen?
  • Salon notes a certain disconnect between the GOP's marriage politics and its candidates' marriage habits, and draws the line between those and Republicans' take on "traditional marriage."
  • An Obama nominee for something other than running drones and Guantánamo might finally get confirmed! It helps that she, the head of Medicare, has already been running the program for 18 months.
  • Mary Williams tells haters cheering about Maggie Thatcher's demise to back off.
  • Haters tell people like Mary Williams to shut up. Maggie Thatcher was behind some bad people, man!

Poll of the Day

In a spin-off of Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me's "Not my Job" segment, Pew polled 1,003 Americans who were almost certainly not North Korea experts to get their take on North Korea. Fully 56 percent believe that the U.S. government should take North Korean threats of nuclear annihilation "very seriously," while another 47 percent believe that Kim Jong Un is both "willing" and "capable" of carrying out such an attack. Seventy-three percent of responders who believed in the North Korean menace are following events "very closely."

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