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Why Harry Reid Voted No - And Other Interesting Things from Wednesday's Vote

19 April 2013

by Ben Raker

 

After Wednesday's vote in the Senate on President Obama's proposed gun bill, the Internet was rife with mixed emotions. All seven of the proposed amendments failed, from the bi-partisan Manchin-Toomey amendment that, according to fact sheet released by the senators, would have expanded background checks; to the Republican Grassley-Cruz amendment, which, according to the Senators, would have “ensured that relevant mental health records are submitted by states” to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).


It was clear from the President's Rose Garden address after the vote that he was not happy about the result. Others, generally from the other side of the aisle, were pleased with the bill's (and it's amendments') failure (see here, here, and here).


And then there were people who were just confused. One major source of confusion came from the Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev). Reid has long been supportive of various gun control measures and had spoken recently about his willingness to vote for the Manchin-Toomey amendment. Then, on Wednesday, he voted “no”. This seemingly obvious about-face led to a variety of outbursts in the Twitterverse and elsewhere about where Mr. Reid's allegiance lay. Alas, the truth of this Nevada Democrat's intentions are much more mundane. The reason for Reid's “no” vote was Senate Rule XIII. According to this rule, only a senator from the “prevailing side”, or one who doesn't vote, can enter a motion to reconsider the vote. Reid voted “no” in order to join the winning side and leave open the possibility to vote on this amendment in the future. In our recent filibuster-prone Senate, this is an important quirk to keep in mind if you are ever perusing Reid's voting records.


Others were confused (and some angered) by the fact that four Democrats broke with their party and voted against the Manchin-Toomey amendment, leaving some, including former Rep. Gabby Giffords, D-Ariz., in a New York Times opinion piece, to accuse these and other senators of acting out of fear, presumably of the nation's gun lobby. Of course, we'll leave it to you to decide what motivated these lawmakers. All four senators were from rural, pro-gun states – Alaska, Arkansas, Montana, and North Dakota, and all but one are facing potentially tough roads to reelection in 2014*, so there are certainly other reasons than the influence of gun lobbying groups for these senators casting a vote against the amendment.


For your consideration, here's a list of the four senators, their contributions from the NRA, and how they've been rated by various gun-related groups. Stay tuned to votesmart.org as for a complete summary of the Manchin-Toomey amendment and tons of other information on gun issues.


Mark Begich (D-Alaska):

Contributions from the NRA in previous election: $0

Recent Guns ratings:

*2012 - Gun Owners of America – Key Votes Alignment on Gun Rights 0%

*2012 – Gun Owners of America – Ratings on Gun Rights: 33%

*1991-2009 – Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence – Lifetime Score (U.S. Senate): 0%


Mark Pryor (D-Ark.):

Contributions from the NRA in previous election: $0

*2012 - Gun Owners of America – Key Votes Alignment on Gun Rights: 0%

*2008 – National Rifle Association – Candidate Positions on Gun Rights: 33%

*1988-2008 Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence – Lifetime Score (U.S. House): 37%


Max Baucus (D-Mont.):

Contributions from the NRA in previous election: $7,450

*2012 Gun Owners of America - Key Votes Alignment on Gun Rights: 0%

*2008 National Rifle Association – Candidate Positions on Gun Rights: 100%

*2003 Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence – Lifetime Score: 38%


Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.):

Contributions from the NRA in previous election: $0

*2012 – National Rifle Association – Candidate Positions on Gun Rights: 92%


*Heidi Heitkamp is next up for reelection in 2018.
 
All ratings were collected by Project Vote Smart and are available here

All contributions were published by The New York Times and are available here


UPDATE: Two more amendments to the bill passed the following day 4.18.2013. You can find a link to the full list of amendments, including those that have passed, failed, and those that were not voted on here: http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/L?d113:./temp/~bdabc0N:1[1-29]%28Amendments_For_S.649%29&./temp/~bdlExM|/home/LegislativeData.php|


Ben Raker is currently the project manager for Project Vote Smart's data categorization and coding project, which is laying the groundwork for more data visualizations and an easier user experience on the site. If you have questions about this project or anything we do here, please call 1-800-VOTE-SMART or email comments@votesmart.org.  



Related tags: Alaska, Arkansas, Blog, Montana, North-Dakota

Comments

Steve Henigson says...

Posted on April 26, 2013 @ 1:28 p.m.

If you are going to use Progressive/Liberal buzz words like "the gun lobby," then, in all fairness, you should also use a similar pejorative for the other side. I propose "the anti-Constitution lobby" or "the anti-self-defense lobby" or "the anti-personal-responsibility lobby." Let's be completely fair here, please.

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