WASHINGTON--Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nv.) sidelined the assault weapons ban sponsored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) on the grounds, he said Tuesday, that he did not have the 60 votes needed to get it passed. Feinstein has vowed to get a vote on the measure--and wants to eventually offer it as an amendment on the Senate floor. I can understand Reid's move--he didn't want the assault ban--the most contentious in a package of proposals to curb gun violence--to poison everything. Still, it looks like he waved the white flag too early--and let fence-sitting senators off the hook too early on--because now they know there will not be a roll call vote to mark their support--or lack of--for reinstating the ban, which expired in 2004.
Reid explained his move: "I have said time and time again that I want people to have the ability to vote on assault weapons, mental health, safety in schools, federal trafficking, clips, everything, but I cannot do that until I get a bill on the floor. And it's been very clear that Republicans want us to have bills coming to the floor that have gone through committee. The Judiciary Committee has held hearings, and they've held hearings on a number of different pieces of legislation. My job is to find one of those that I can bring to the floor, or two of them, but at least have been through the committee and that I can get 60 votes to proceed to that. We cannot have votes on everything unless I get something on the floor. It's a legislative impossibility.
"Dianne has worked so hard on this. She understands, going back to the day she found the mayor dead in his office, having been killed, how strongly she feels about that. I know that. But right now her amendment, using the most optimistic numbers, has less than 40 votes. I -- that's not 60. I have to get something on the floor so we can have votes on that issue and the other issues that I've talked about. And that's what I'm going to try to do."