Sunday, May 5, 2013

Analysis of Toomey's Background Check Bill -- And Media Bias

US Senator Patrick Toomey (R-Pennsylvania) fought his way from the House of Representatives to the United States Senate. The President for the fiscal conservative interest group Club for Growth, Toomey first ran for the US Senate in 2004, hoping to edge out the more liberal Arlen Specter. George W. Bush stood with Specter, yet the centrist eventually switched parties in 2009, then lost his primary battle in 2010 against Joe Sestak. "I switched parties so that I could get re-elected" was repeated at length. Specter became a specter of his former self, lost the primary, then died after a long bout with non-Hodgkins lymphoma.

Toomey has distinguished himself as an independent voice, willing to make sacrifices and compromises in the best interests of the country, but never caving on principle. A Tea Party affiliated legislator, he even called for shutting down the federal government shortly after the fiscal cliff deal, if that would be the only way to force the federal government to cut the spending and deal with entitlements.

Toomey has been plastered, and blasted in the press recently for staging a gun-control like compromise with fellow NRA enthusiast Joe Manchin, the conservative Democratic US Senator from West Virginia. Their compromise legislation would have extended background checks, which a number of conservative voices have endorsed, including Ben Shapiro, editor-in-chief of

Despite attempts from the conservative Democrat and his Republican colleague to advance something, their bill failed to overcome cloture by six votes. Both Democrats and Republicans voted for and against the legislation.

Yet recent reports have attempted to lambaste one party at the expense of another in the final analysis-autopsy for why the bill failed to pass the US Senate.

MSNBC reported "Toomey: Background check plan failed because of Republican politics"

However, in his brief interview with "Morning Joe" Scarborough, Toomey mentioned the "polarization of our politics" currently at play in Washington. Both parties are responsible, not just Republicans.

The editorializing from the piece was just too biased to be based on any basis of reality:

His comments suggest that his fellow Republicans' votes weren't governed so much by judgment of good policy so much as a desire to deprive Obama of a political and legislative victory.

A more partisan post from Daily Kos launched "PA-Sen: Pat Toomey (R) Blames Pres. Obama For Toomey-Manchin Compromise Failure"

So now Toomey blames Obama? Toomey shared:

"I understand why people have some apprehension about this administration," he added. "I don't agree with the conclusion as it applies to my [background checks] amendment, but I understand where the emotion comes from."

The writer has more terse curses for Toomey, including "F---. This. Guy." Partisan and vulgar.

The editors seemed to forget that five Democrats, mostly in red states, also voted against the legislation, Senators who are facing fraught election fights in 2014, as well.

Which brings up another, more tactical point about this legislation. Contrary to the outrage from social conservatives and Tea Party activists, I do not believe that Toomey is caving on principle, or even caving to Washington interests. One article from the National Journal, "How Pat Toomey Became the Face of the Blue State GOP" suggests that he is tacking toward the center on social issues so that he can run without facing a fierce primary fight in 2016, yet still remain true-red on fiscal issues. took another of Roarty's National Review articles, with this title:

Pat Toomey’s Tilt Toward Middle Angers Conservative Base

One part of the piece suggested less rancor than the post title:

“The hardest part about doing my job well is to do what I believe is right, even when many of my friends and supporters don’t agree with me,” he said, according to the Harrisburg Patriot-News. “That does happen from time to time and I think that’s the real test of character.”

The audience responded far more favorably to Toomey afterward. “This had all hallmarks of a family gathering where we said, ‘Oh, naughty boy!’ but in the end, ended up hugging,” Henry said.

The media bias, or spin, on the Toomey-Manchin compromise is too evident to ignore. Republicans cannot afford to look like unrepentant obstructions whose only interest is to frustrate Barack Obama. Besides the follies of running an empty suit of a moderate-turned-conservative at the top of the ticket, Republicans, conservatives, and any party for that matter cannot advertise to the country "We are not going to do anything" and hope for victory.

However, Toomey's willingness to push just a little to the left on the background issue not only gave his party, and himself, a blues-state Republican, some breathing room to reach out to more liberal constituencies. The bill forced the hand for vulnerable Democratic Senators in red states, including Mark Pryor of Arkansas, along with Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Mark Begich of Alaska, and Max Baucus of Montana, who has declined to run. The bill also permitted more moderate Republicans to maintain their own independence from the National Conference. Last of all, gun control is a weak point for President Obama and the Mainstream Media, since the National Rifle Association has a strong caucus of organizers throughout the country, plus recent rulings from the Supreme Court, which have expanded the Second Amendment provisions.

Pat Toomey should be celebrated for offering a basic compromise which would have expanded background checks, a good-faith gesture which demonstrates a willingness from some Republicans to move anything in the Senate. At the same time, the legislation pushed the Democrats into a bind, since President Obama's agenda was frustrated by his own party. For all intensive purposed, Mr. Toomey should be able to weather this storm with a strong base for 2016.

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