WASHINGTON ― Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said Tuesday he would do “anything I can” to help pass what he called “common sense” legislation to address gun violence in the wake of a horrific shooting in Texas, where at least 19 kids and two teachers died when a gunman opened fire at an elementary school.
“It makes no sense at all why we can’t do common sense things and try to prevent some of this from happening. It’s all just unbelievable how we’ve gotten as a society that someone could be that deranged and this sick,” Manchin lamented.
But when asked if he would support eliminating the filibuster in order to overcome unified Republican opposition to such legislation, Manchin, a staunch filibuster advocate, reiterated that he would not go that far.
“The filibuster is the only thing that prevents us from total insanity,” Manchin told reporters, repeating an argument he has made on other issues, including on voting rights. The senator has emphasized the importance of protecting the input of the minority in the Senate.
“You would think there would be enough common sense” in the Senate to pass gun control legislation without nuking the filibuster, Manchin added.
There doesn’t appear to be, however. Passing legislation with the filibuster on the books requires at least 60 votes to advance in the Senate ― meaning at least 10 Republican senators would need to be on board.
Most GOP lawmakers don’t believe Congress has any role in addressing gun violence.
“These people who say guns are a problem? I feel sorry for them, I really do,” said Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.), calling gun violence a “people problem.” He argued lawmakers should focus on doing more to bolster mental health programs.
“It’s one thing to say that, regardless of the facts, you should just do something,” Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) added of calls to pass gun control legislation. “The question is whether something you would do would actually make a difference.”
Little, if anything, has changed in Congress in the decade since the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting, which culminated in similar calls for gun control and then a failed vote in the Senate on expanding gun background checks. The violence seems to only have accelerated in recent years. Last week, in Buffalo, New York, ten people were killed by a gunman at a grocery store.
The very bare minimum gesture the Senate could make following Tuesday’s shooting is to confirm a director to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the nation’s major gun regulator. The agency hasn’t had a Senate-confirmed director since 2015.
The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to hold a confirmation hearing for President Joe Biden’s nominee to lead the ATF, Steve Dettelbach, on Wednesday. Republicans are opposed to Dettelbach and are likely to launch attacks against him during the proceedings.
Democrats don’t necessarily need GOP votes to confirm Dettelbach if all 50 of their members vote to push him through, but it’s not clear if they have all 50 of their members on board yet. Manchin, who helped sink Biden’s last nominee to lead the agency, said he still had “some questions” for Dettelbach.
Dettelbach on Tuesday landed the support of the National Sheriff’s Association, according to Fox News.