The Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday passed two measures designed to curb gun violence, and the bills are now headed to the Senate floor for a full vote. The committee postponed a vote on the most contentious measure — a proposed reinstatement of the assault weapons ban — because its sponsor, Senator Dianne Feinstein of California was not present at the committee’s meeting.
The first measure, which would expand background checks to private gun sales, passed the committee 10 to 8, with no Republican on the committee voting for its passage. Another bill, offered by Senator Barbara Boxer of California, enjoyed more bipartisan support.
That measure renewed a grant program to help schools improve their security procedures though for a 10-year period, and increased the financing to $40 million per year from $30 million. It creates a Department of Justice and Department of Education task force to develop advisory school safety guidelines. It passed 14 to 4; the nays were all Republicans.
The committee approved a measure last week that would make the practice of illegally buying a gun for someone else — known as a straw purchase — a felony, and increase penalties for the crime. The vote was significant because it attracted the support of one Republican — Senator Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, the most senior Republican on the committee — signaling that the measure may well succeed in the full Senate later this spring.
These bills, varied in their approach, represent part of President Obama’s gun safety agenda.
What should the President do now?
Push to repeal the sequester (a reconciliation bill in the Senate would allow repeal with 51 votes, thereby putting pressure on House Republicans), and replace it with a “Build America’s Future” Act that would close tax loopholes used by the wealthy, end corporate welfare, impose a small (1/10 of 1%) tax on financial transactions, and reduce the size of the military.
Half the revenues would be used for deficit reduction, the other half for investments in our future through education (from early-childhood through affordable higher ed), infrastructure, and basic R&D.
Also included in that bill — in order to make sure our future isn’t jeopardized by another meltdown of Wall Street — would be a resurrection of Glass-Steagall and a limit on the size of the biggest banks.
I’d make clear to the American people that they made a choice in 2012 but that right-wing House Republicans have been blocking that choice, and the only way to implement that choice is for Congress to pass the Build America’s Future Act.
If House Republicans still block it, I’d make 2014 a referendum on it and them, and do whatever I could to take back the House.
In short, the President must reframe the public debate around the future of the country and the investments we must make together in that future, rather than austerity economics. And focus on good jobs and broad-based prosperity rather than prosperity for a few and declining wages and insecurity for the many.