After several days of talk but no action on guns following the Orlando massacre, a lingering, and familiar, question remains. What is it about democracy that threatens congressional Republicans?
The purpose of last week's sit-in by House Democrats was to draw attention to the intransigence of House Republicans, who won't even allow votes on reasonable and much-needed gun control laws. Voting is fundamental to a democracy, but congressional Republicans will go to great lengths to avoid doing it.
First District U.S. Representative Richard Neal, a Springfield Democrat who took part in the sit-in, requested votes on requiring mental health background checks on all gun buyers and banning people on the FBI no-fly list from buying firearms (Eagle, June 24). These reasonable regulations, Mr. Neal observed, "represent no threat to the hunter, the sportsman, or the gun collector." They do, however, threaten the National Rifle Association, a special interest group that will accept no compromise by the Republican officials it has bought off and/or bullied into submission.
House Speaker Paul Ryan said there was no point in having any votes because the proposed measures wouldn't pass, which translates to Mr. Ryan calling his Republican colleagues a collection of sheep. If Republicans believe that potential terrorists should not be inconvenienced with background checks or prevented from buying weapons of mass murder they should go on the record as such with a vote. That, however, is something Mr. Ryan doesn't want to happen in an election year with polls indicating that Americans strongly support gun control measures.
Republicans' "no vote" policy extends to what will be the longest U.S. Supreme Court vacancy in history. Their motivation is an irrational hatred of President Obama, as it can be assumed that if this vacancy had emerged when a Republican was in the White House, congressional Republicans would have hastened to fulfill their constitutional responsibility to hold hearings and vote on a Supreme Court nominee. Republican opposition to voting is seasoned with a heavy dose of hypocrisy.
While congressional Republicans refuse to do their jobs, Republicans in statehouses across the country will work to extend their "no vote" policy to the polls. Needlessly tough ID requirements, shorter voting hours and reduced polling places in urban neighborhoods have all been done or proposed in the name of stopping non-existent "voter fraud" by Republican governors and legislatures over the last two election cycles. The real intent is to prevent likely Democratic voters, specifically minorities, from getting to the polls.
Those efforts will be made again this fall. As long as Republicans are in the congressional majority no one can make them vote, but Americans must at least stand up for their constitutional right to make their voices heard at the ballot box.