Thursday, May 15, 2003

The Washington Post has an article about the House not having the votes to renew the assault weapons ban.

"House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) said most House members are willing to let the ban expire next year. "The votes in the House are not there" to continue the ban, DeLay told reporters.
His spokesman, Stuart Roy, said, "We have no intention of bringing it up" for a vote."

That's basically the same thingDeLay & his Aide saia few days ago.

"...several Republicans close to the White House said Bush has no plans to lobby lawmakers aggressively to extend the ban. That would allow him to officially oppose the NRA without completely turning against the powerful gun lobby by fighting hard to maintain a ban on semiautomatic weapons."

That would confirm the theories of many including Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) who opine that Bush is statting support for the Assault Weapons Ban to appease potential voters who are in favor of the ban while being confident that the House will not pass any renewals of the ban therefore not forcing him to alienate a core constituency ( gun owners) by signing it into law. While politically this makes for good strategy I still find it dishonest.

Here's where the danger comes in:

"...several Republicans, who requested anonymity, said some pro-gun GOP leaders worry that if members are forced into a rollcall vote, they might switch under pressure from gun control advocates.
'If the president demands we pass it, that would change the dynamics considerably,'said a House GOP leadership aide. 'the White House does not want us' to vote...Most congressional Democratic leaders and presidential candidates strongly support the assault weapons ban and appear ready to wage a public fight over an issue they believe may pack a political punch with independents and women, in particular."

So while it would seem Bush may in fact be counting on the House rejecting any renewal of the Assault Weapons Ban, if he is pressured into pressuring Congress then there may indeed be enough votes to pass it.

According to Rueters, Democrats are in fact pressuring Bush to push for a renewal of the Assault Weapons Ban.

"The president's position is clear," White House spokesman Ari Fleischer told reporters. "If Congress passes it, he will sign it. The president thinks that the current assault weapons ban should be reauthorized."

That still falls in with the theory that this is more or less a political bluff. However the big question is what will Bush do if that bluff is called.

"Asked if Bush would pressure House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, a fellow Texan, to reverse course and hold a House vote, Fleischer said, 'It's a matter the House has to work out, of course, by listening to the will of its members ... I think when the president states his position like this it helps get the message to the Congress."

Again it could be just part of the political bluff, but then again it could be ( & more likely) that Bush does in fact support the Assault Weapons Ban. In previous posts I have explained that Bush does not have a great record of defending the Second Amendment. It could simply be that while he wants the ban renewed he realizes that any active campaigning on his part to accomplish this will make him a less than sure thing for the Oval Office in 2004.

"This little game of footsie ought to stop,' Schumer told reporters, adding that if Bush doesn't follow through, voters would ask 'is the president being a straight shooter with the American people.'
'The House does everything the president wants,' Schumer said. 'If the House says we're not doing it, you know something is going on.'
Schumer said the president was trying to have it both ways, saying he supported the ban while having aides whisper to the NRA not to worry."

CNN has a story on Bush & the Assault Weapons Ban.

"White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said the president's position 'is clear.'
'The president said in the 2000 campaign that he supported the assault weapons ban because he thought it was reasonable,' Fleischer said. 'He stated then that he would support the reauthorization of it, and he states that again today."

So again this could fall within the 'political bluff' theory of Bush's support, but in any event it is still disturbing that he finds the Assualt Weapons Ban, or any other federal gun control 'reasonable'. ( Everyone in the back - Federal firearms laws are constitutionally prohibited!")

"Asked whether the assault weapons ban was a lower priority for Bush, Fleischer said that was not the case.
'No, the president has many priorities, and he judges each one as it comes up,' Fleischer said. 'Right now he is clearly focused on job creation, given the fact that the important decisions are getting made on Capitol Hill now about the package in the Senate and as it approaches the conference."

So this could be stalling if you believe the 'political bluff' theory, or it could simply be that Bush hasn't gotten around to dealing with the Assault Weapons Ban. Yet.

However if Bush's priorities change, or if Schumer & other Democrats bring enough pressure to bear on Bush over this, thereby providing a political excuse I think there's a chance that he would activley campaign for the ban's renewal, which could potentially change the dynamics in the House enough to pass it. By my earlier estimates, the House would only need 13 or so votes to pass a renewal. Assuming they will vote according to the ratings determined by GOA, they have about 50 or so Representatives that could go either way.

So it seems unlikely that the House will renew the Assault Weapons Ban, but not improbable, especially if Bush starts directly asking them to.

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