The Hill is reporting that Mitch McConnell says he’ll bring a gun reform bill up for a vote in the Senate if President Trump gives him a green light.
McConnell’s comments underscore the political reality any push for new gun reforms faces.
Though House Democrats have already passed a background check bill and are expected to vote on additional bills as soon as next week, Republicans in the Senate are unlikely to back anything unless they get political cover from Trump. The Senate GOP is defending 22 seats this election cycle, most of those in deeply red states.
Asked on Tuesday why he wouldn’t bring the House-backed universal background check bill up for a vote, McConnell said that lawmakers and the White House were currently in a “discussion” about what action to take.
“I said several weeks ago that if the president took a position on a bill, so that we knew we would actually be making a law and not just having serial votes, I’d be happy to put it on the floor,” McConnell said.
Here are a few quick observations I glean from this news.
The long and short of it seems to me that Mitch and the GOP need to at least LOOK like they’re doing something in the eyes of the voters, but even a weakened NRA is a powerful foe, which is why McConnell needs Trump.
It’s a fun mental exercise to game this out a little bit. My guess is that Trump will give Mitch the green light, since Trump is a needy little man who craves approval. In fact, we’ve already seen the president swing wildly on the issue of background checks, so it’s not out of the realm of possibility that he’ll give Mitch the go ahead.
But this will set off a round of shrieking from the NRA, Fox News, right wing radio, and Trump’s twitter followers. Which Trump could again respond to by reversing himself at the last minute, like when he left Paul Ryan holding the bag over border security. That went very well for the Republicans, don’t you think?
Trump might even flip flop a second or third time, in response to public outrage over the gun nuts, and then more counter-outrage from the gun nuts. He just backed down on deporting sick children, so it’s not like that’s out of the ordinary. Meanwhile, the ads and memes about how “the GOP isn’t protecting our right to own as many guns as possible” would be flying fast and furious. Hannity and Ingraham and “Judge Jeanine” (that title always makes me laugh) would be hammering the issue nightly.
Consider Mitch’s predicament. His party is losing the gun control argument, so he has to look like he’s doing something. But Trump has so wrecked the party that in many states, they cannot sacrifice a single Republican vote. This may even be true in Kentucky. So he NEEDS Trump to give him cover, but Trump is not only the very definition of an unreliable ally, he has no love for the Senate Majority Leader.
In the end, I predict that after more sturm und drang than a German opera, no bill passes the Senate. But not before causing plenty of bad optics for Mitch and his party, lots of stuff for Democrats to campaign on, and absolutely no upside to pissing off the right.
It seems to me that the distinguished turtle from Kentucky is caught between a rock and a hard place.