Baucus weighs in on Obamachecks and Obamacare
Today Max Baucus today voted against Obama’s bill that would require background checks for gun purchases. The bill failed. Federal law already requires these checks to take place, and they are run instantaneously at gun shops when people buy guns. But sales at gun shows (which take place under tents or in gymnasiums and involve cash payments and resemble something akin to a ski swap) and certain types of other private guns sales are exempt from federal law. It is this loophole, this exemption, that president Obama was trying to close.
Jon Tester voted for the measure.
What is strange about Baucus’s vote–or anyone’s vote against tightening this law–is that 91% of Americans support background checks for gun purchases. Numerous polls show this to be the case. Even discounting that number to reflect Montana public opinion (which is usually more conservative than the national opinion and is certainly so on guns), we can posit that easily 65% of Montanans, and maybe as many as 75%, support background checks for gun sales.
Consider West Virginia, a big gun state. Joe Manchin, the state’s democratic senator who won his senate seat with the help of a campaign ad in which he went to a gun range and shot Obama’s Cap and Trade Bill full of holes with an assault rifle, voted in favor of Obama’s background check legislation. But the NRA is strongly against it, and so Baucus no doubt fears the wrath of the NRA and is not willing to risk making enemies with Wayne LaPierre, the group’s all-powerful demagogic president. Plus, Baucus probably figures that if he supports the bill, come election time he will be accused not of supporting background checks, but of supporting “Obama’s plan to take guns away from Americans,” as it would no doubt be cast by the NRA and local loons like Gary Marbut. Nevertheless, I think Baucus should have done the right thing. If it is revisited and a single vote can make a difference, he should vote for it.
The other piece of news about Baucus today is that he described the Obamacare implementation states are now required to undertake as a “train wreck.” He made this remark during a hearing in which he was asking questions of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. It’s not clear whether the remark was scripted and intended, or spontaneously blurted out. We can forgive him if it was an accident; oratory is not lately his thing.
But if it was said deliberately and planned, we can infer that this signals a new political strategy by which Baucus will attempt to blame Obama for poor execution of what Baucus otherwise believes was a workable law as passed.
The remark does not do any favors to democrats in the Montana legislature who are trying, with the help of a few moderate Republicans, to pass a law that would allow the state to get more Medicaid funds–six billion more over the next seven years–from the federal government. Obamacare’s shaky standing among Montana voters is the one hangup that could cause the House to balk at voting in favor of accepting the money (the Senate has voted to accept it). This is funding is an aspect of Obamacare implementation. So yes, if this fails and Montana has to forgo these funds, it would indeed be a train wreck.