07.08.2010 0

To Be or Not To Be – That is McConnell’s Question

A story of Washington politics, the NRA and Harry Reid’s ambition

The nomination of Elena Kagan for the US Supreme Court took a political turn this week that could doom her hopes to reach the nation’s highest bench, and no one noticed.  The National Rifle Association announced that they will count a vote for Kagan as a vote against gun owner rights.

Why is this important?

Nine Senate Democrats, headlined by Majority Leader Harry Reid, currently have highly coveted “A” ratings with the National Rifle Association that they will be loathe to give up for an Obama nominee who equated the NRA with the KKK.

The real question is will Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell put Harry Reid in a box by forcing him to vote in favor of Kagan to get to 60 votes and break a filibuster?

The Senate math is simple.  If Kagan’s nomination is allowed on the floor for a straight up or down vote, it only takes a simple majority vote for her to be confirmed.  However, if the Senate Republicans choose to force the Democrats to invoke cloture in a recorded vote, then Kagan needs 60 votes to win, and every Republican vote for her takes one Democrat off the hook.

Why is this important?  Right now, Harry Reid will likely receive the NRA endorsement for re-election in his uphill fight to be re-elected in Nevada.

Many people outside of the gun community are stunned that the NRA would endorse Reid, but the reason that the NRA is the most effective lobbying group in America is they stick to their knitting.  They don’t rank Reid on whether he has run the nation’s budget into a ditch.  They don’t rank him on cap and trade.  They don’t even rank him on his health care vote.  The NRA ranks Harry Reid and all elected officials on one thing and one thing only – how they vote on gun issues.

That is why Kagan is a big problem for Reid as well as for Max Baucus (MT), Mark Begich (AK), Robert Casey (PA), Tim Johnson (SD), Ben Nelson (NE), Jon Tester (MT), Mark Warner (VA) and Jim Webb (VA).

That is why Kagan is a huge opportunity for Mitch McConnell.

From a straight political perspective, McConnell’s ideal situation is to have a filibuster requiring a cloture vote with two Republicans voting in favor of Kagan, thus forcing all 56 Democrats along with their two ‘Independents’ to vote for Kagan in order for her nomination to move forward, costing the NRA 9 and most importantly Harry Reid, the expectation of an NRA endorsement.

However, if McConnell allows a simple majority confirmation vote to go forward, he can expect the NRA 9 to not vote for confirmation, while Kagan still wins her Supreme Court seat.  This represents the ultimate win for Harry Reid who both preserves his political prospects while shepherding through Obama’s Supreme Court choice.

It would be bitter irony if Mitch McConnell lets Harry Reid off the hook on the Kagan vote by not forcing a cloture vote, and Reid survives his election due to the NRA’s help.  It would be even more ironic if Reid’s victory prevented McConnell from becoming Majority Leader.

It is very possible, that control of the Senate in 2011 rests on this one decision by Mitch McConnell, and with the Kagan vote in the Senate expected shortly, he doesn’t have much time to make it.

Let’s hope he holds Harry Reid’s feet to the fire.

Rick Manning is the Director of Communications for Americans for Limited Government and is a former nine year employee and lobbyist for the National Rifle Association and their members.

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