At a press conference in the Capitol on Wednesday, House Democrats lashed out at opponents of new gun control measures.
“There are no arguments against doing something,” said Rep. Jim Himes of Connecticut. “The notion that more Americans, quote unquote, in the words of Governor Perry ‘packing heat’ will make us safer is not founded in reality, facts, or history. It is founded in the fantasy of testosterone-laden individuals who have blood on their hands for articulating that idea.”
Rep. John Larson, another Democrat from Connecticut, agreed with his colleague and said that "to do nothing is to be complicit" with mass murder.
But when nearly 260 Democrats controlled the House from 2009 to 2011, then-Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi didn't hold a single vote on gun control. Why not?
“Perhaps you’re familiar with the 60-vote rule in the Senate," Pelosi told me. "Our members are very courageous. They’ll walk the plank on any tough vote. But I don’t want them to walk the plank on something that’s not going to become the law.”
“This is a very high priority for us," Pelosi continued. "But because of what is—money. Let’s face it. Big money out there on the side of those would be opposed to gun safety.”
“The fact is if there was no prospect of success, we wanted the members to be here to continue to make the fight, so that when there was a prospect of success they would be here rather than being cleared out by the NRA,” Pelosi added.
Rep. Diana DeGette of Colorado, the Democrats' chief deputy whip, chimed in to support Pelosi. “We had the votes to pass sensible gun legislation through the House, but when the Senate said that they couldn’t do it with the 60 votes, the leader made the decision that this really wasn’t the thing to do at the time," said DeGette. "We were trying to pass health care reform and other issues."
From 2009 to 2011 there were either 59 or 60 Democrats in the Senate, plus five Republicans who had voted for the "assault weapons ban" in 2004 (Judd Gregg, Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins, George Voinovich, and Dick Lugar). In other words, it was Democratic opposition in the Senate, chiefly from Majority Leader Harry Reid, that disuaded Pelosi from holding a single vote on gun control from 2009 to 2011.
Of course, Pelosi was more than willing to vote on other measures, such as cap-and-trade, that stood little chance of passing the Senate. Why did Pelosi choose to ratchet up pressure on Senate Democrats over cap-and-trade but not gun control? "Well, I’m not going to speculate about that," DeGette told me following the press conference.