After the Senate refused to take up several gun-control proposals Wednesday, I checked in with faith-based activists on the legislative process. (See my earlier Century article.) Many expressed frustration but also tentative hope for future prospects. "I'm deeply disappointed and very angry at the vise grip the NRA has on this issue," says Katherine Willis Pershey of the #ItIsEnough campaign. Many activists weren't thrilled with the legislation to begin with.
Sometimes when a vote doesn't go the way you want, you just have to sigh and remind yourself that this is how democracy works. Other times you have to wish that it actually did work. The overwhelming majority of Americans support background checks for gun buyers. No matter.
The good news: the U.S. will now have the highest number of African-American senators ever. The bad news: that number is two. Out of 100.
Richard Lugar symbolizes something great but fragile about the American system of government: it relies on partisanship tempered by wisdom.
So, who's playing politics with reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act? Sen. Schumer and the Democrats, or Sen. Grassley and the Republicans? Well, probably both. Yes, Democracts would love to bolster the narrative that Republicans don't care about women, even though Grassley et al. object to new provisions added to the VAWA, not the existing law. And yes, by threatening the whole bill based on objections to small parts of it, some Senate Republicans (not all of them) reveal that while they may in general favor services for domestic violence victims, it's not exactly a top priority to them. Of course both Senators Chuck are playing politics. That's their game, especially in leap years.
So, the Blunt amendment got killed in the Senate. And good riddance: you wouldn't know it from the L.A. Times's writeup, but the measure was a good bit broader than a reversal of the Obama administration's contraception mandate (which itself would have been nothing to celebrate). From the amendment text (pdf): A health plan shall not be considered to have failed to provide the essential health benefits package...on the basis that it declines to provide coverage of specific items or services because...providing coverage (or, in the case of a sponsor of a group health plan, paying for coverage) of such specific items or services is contrary to the religious beliefs or moral convictions of the sponsor, issuer, or other entity offering the plan. In other words, essentially a line-item veto of whatever the boss is morally opposed to, based on church teaching or otherwise.