Decoding | Disabled is a weapon that kills silently

(New York) This is a story of a gun known as “stall,” a story that might kill the next gun bill in the US Senate.

Posted at 6:00 AM

Richard Hito

Richard Hito
special cooperation

in the nineteenthe and XXe Centuries, proponents of slavery and apartheid have used it to prevent or delay the enactment of laws that threaten their interests or goals of supremacy.

in the twentye century, NRA allies used it to bury any measure intended to restrict access to firearms.

They are seen at work on April 17, 2013, four months and three days after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. On that day, the Senate voted on three measures that Barack Obama wanted. The first two, which sought to ban certain assault rifles and high-capacity magazines, were rejected by the majority.

But the third had the support of 55 out of 100 senators (and, according to opinion polls, 90% of Americans). It was intended to popularize the psychological and forensic antecedents of arms purchasers. No less was it aided by the “stall” of 41 Republican senators and four Democrats elected in conservative states (Alaska, Arkansas, Montana, and North Dakota).

How can a minority of senators impose their will in this way?

Before moving on to the origins of this confusing rule, a reminder: Since 1975, with some exceptions, it is sufficient for one senator to declare “stall” to pass a bill that requires not a simple majority, but a super-majority of 60 votes.

This is why the passage of the gun bill is uncertain, indeed unlikely, in the wake of the Buffalo and Ovaldi massacre.

This is also why this rule has never been challenged.

Aaron Burr’s mistake

Mistaken at the origin of “procrastination,” according to political scientist Sarah Binder. In 1805, Vice President Aaron Burr persuaded senators to repeal a Senate rule allowing debate on a bill to be terminated by a simple majority, on the grounds that the rule was redundant.

It was not. Beginning in 1841, Democratic Senator of South Carolina John Calhoun, a prominent pro-slavery advocate, exploited this error to block or delay the passage of opposing bills by southern states. Thus he and his fellow slave-owners could paralyze the Senate for days or weeks by speaking without interruption in the Senate.

Calhoun called anyone who tried to put an end to this first form of disruption a “tyrant,” as Adam Gentelson recalls in Kill Switch – The Rise of the Modern Senate and the Obstruction of American DemocracyIt is a Senate history book that he published last year.

In 1917, the Senate finally corrected Bohr’s error. Under “Rule 22,” the Senate can now end debate on a bill with a two-thirds majority.

But the new rule did not put an end to the “procrastination.” Beginning in the 1930s, this 67-vote supermajority became an obstacle that allowed Georgia Democratic Senator Richard Russell and his fellow apartheid Southerners to torpedo several civil rights bills, including a measure to combat the lynching of blacks.

Russell and his group finally surrendered on June 10, 1964. After 60 days of debate and a final 14-hour, 13-minute speech by Democratic Senator Virginia Robert Byrd, Senate leaders were able to muster the necessary votes. To overcome the obstacle of 67 votes and put an end to the “procrastination” that prevented the adoption of the future Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Mitch McConnell’s enthusiasm

Adam Gentelson wrote in kill switch.

This is still true today. Sure, modern Democrats have used “stall” to thwart some conservative projects, including the privatization of the Public Pension Plan (Social Security) that George W. Bush wanted in 2005. But no Senate leader has used this weapon with the same enthusiasm. Like Republican Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell.

From 1941 to 1971, the Senate held only 35 votes to end obstruction. However, in the first two years of Barack Obama’s presidency, when Mitch McConnell was minority leader, he was ranked 91st.

Throughout the Obama era, “stalling” has helped kill the climate, immigration, and of course gun bills, among other things.

Why don’t you get rid of it? Democratic senators can do so by voting by simple majority. They have 51 votes, including the vice president, Kamala Harris, as speaker of the Senate. But at least two members of their group, Joe Manchin (West Virginia) and Kirsten Sinema (Arizona), refused. Senator Manchin has notably argued that “stalling” has been part of the “Senate tradition” since its inception.

This is a mistake. As the book explains kill switchNone of the Founding Fathers envisioned an upper house where passing laws would require a supermajority. “A system in which the minority prevails over the majority would be contrary to the common practice of congregations of all countries and of all ages,” Benjamin Franklin estimated, quoting only.

Now, at present, only a senator has to call a special line to announce a “stall” and thus impose a 60-vote hitch. He doesn’t even have to speak in front of his colleagues, as he did in the days of John Calhoun or Richard Russell. “Procrastination” has become “silent” as the accepted expression is. But it also kills effectively. And nothing satisfies the National Rifle Association more.

some numbers

88%: Percentage of Americans in favor of reviewing the psychiatric and criminal history of all firearms purchasers

75%: The percentage of Americans in favor of creating a national database containing information on every firearm sale

67%: Percentage of Americans in favor of banning assault rifles

According to a poll by Politico/Morning Consult published on May 26

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