Ex-Obama chief of staff: Sen. Heidi Heitkamp betrayed me on gun control

I wrote recently about taking Dem senators to serious task for their pro-NRA gun control votes. That piece is here:

They’re bad on Keystone Pipeline, and they’re bad on guns – meet the worst Senate Democrats

Let’s be clear — the watered-down but still-an-improvement Manchin-Toomey background-checks amendment, the gun control bill with the best chance to pass, “lost” on an April 17 roll call vote by 54-46. It failed, in other words, to clear the permanent 60-vote bar (thanks, Mr. Reid).

One of the 46 No votes was Harry Reid, who favors the bill but was preserving his right to enter a Motion to Reconsider. Reid voted with the gun safety senators on all other NRA votes that day, and in fact, he was partly behind the Manchin-Toomey attempt to get something passed.

That means that five more senators voting Yes could have passed the bill (54 + Reid = 55 votes) — it needed only one more Republican and our four NRA Dems. Once more, those four NRA Dems are:

The worst Democratic pro-NRA, pro-Keystone senators

Score Last Name First State Party Phone Class Mar 23 Keystone Apr 17 Manchin
-5 Baucus Max MT D (202) 224-2651 2 -1 -1
-5 Begich Mark AK D (202) 224-3004 2 -1 -1
-5 Heitkamp Heidi ND D (202) 224-2043 1 -1 -1
-5 Pryor Mark AR D (202) 224-2353 2 -1 -1

“Score” is the sum of their four key gun control votes plus the Keystone vote. As you can see, these senators really are the worst of the worst on our side of the aisle. Their gun votes will get people killed, people in their own states, and if Keystone passes with their votes, they will extend their destruction literally across the planet. Nice work, folks.

Notice that of the four, three are in Senate Class 2, up for re-election in 2014.

The reaction has begun

This was a winnable fight, a win that was desired by the majority of voters in this country, and also the voters in each of their states. It was a win that the president, to his credit, both wanted and pushed for.

PEW gun controlFor the senators, this was not about pandering to red-state constituencies, as the article below explains. It was about pandering to the NRA against the national interest, and taking money for doing so.

These senators defied their party’s president and took the money. So I wondered, what would the administration do? Would the faithless NRA senators get a pass?

We have an answer. Note the source; Bill Daley was White House chief of staff in 2011–2012. The Wash Post has his op-ed (my emphasis):

Heidi Heitkamp betrayed me on gun control
By Bill Daley

I want my money back.

Last October, I gave $2,500 to support Heidi Heitkamp’s campaign to become North Dakota’s junior senator. A few weeks later, she won a surprise victory.

I have had a long career in government and politics, but I don’t donate heavily to political campaigns. When I contribute, it’s because I know the candidate well or am really impressed with the person. Heidi Heitkamp was one of the latter: She struck me as strong-willed, principled and an independent thinker.

But this week, Heitkamp betrayed those hopes.

She voted to block legislation to make gun background checks more comprehensive. Her vote — along with those of 41 Republicans and three other Democrats — was a key reason the measure fell short of the 60 votes needed for passage.

Polling has shown that nine in 10 Americans and eight in 10 gun owners support a law to require every buyer to go through a background check on every gun sale. In North Dakota, the support was even higher: 94 percent. Yet in explaining her vote, Heitkamp had the gall to say that she “heard overwhelmingly from the people of North Dakota” and had to listen to them and vote no. It seems more likely that she heard from the gun lobby and chose to listen to it instead.

That’s pushback. Five things to note:

■ It this isn’t the Obama administration talking, I don’t know what is. Bill Daley is son of Richard J. Daley (the legendary “hizzonor” of Chicago) and brother of ex-Mayor Richard M. Daley. He’s a former Obama chief of staff, former Clinton Commerce Secretary and a very big deal at JP Morgan Chase (whose CEO loves you and wants you to eat catfood).

Bill Daley is a boardroom member of the Obama–Clinton wing of the Democratic Party. He’s the real deal. I would bet everything I own he’s writing under instructions and with permission. Surrogate time.

■ This is in the Washington Post, Obama’s hometown paper (and Heitkamp’s when the Senate is in session). This counts as a shot across the bow.

■ Of the four senators listed above, Heitkamp is the only one not facing the voters in 2014. Also, she’s a freshman senator (along with Begich), a newbie with relatively less power. So this is a safe attack that doesn’t risk a Senate seat. Nice choice of target.

■ Nevertheless, this is an attack, and a personal one. Yes, it fights on the issue, but it also holds one senator’s named feet to the very hot fire of public opinion. “I want my money back” is pretty obvious code for “you no longer have our support.”

■ Bill Daley is not your friend and he’s not mine. Neither is President Obama on most issues. Both are Catfood fans and Keystone kings. They want you to be poor and your grandchildren to die on a hot planet while David Koch dies rich.

But in this case our enemies are fighting our enemies (the Faithless Four listed above), and we should thank our useful allies and help them. How can you help? Read on.

You can help Obama take out the NRA senators

The pro–gun safety forces (the real progressives, as opposed to the Bill Daleys of the world) are preparing to leverage this Dem-on-Dem fight and broaden it. When targets and actions are announced, I’ll let you know in this space.

In the meantime, while Obama may not want to take out all of the senators listed above, you can use his attack on Heitkamp to influence all four:

Are you a resident of Alaska, Arkansas, Montana or North Dakota? If so, call your senators early and often. Tell them you want gun safety laws passed, the rest of the state wants the same, and they have lost your vote in 2014 because it didn’t. (Would they ever have had your vote? Doesn’t matter.)

Are you not a resident of Alaska, Arkansas, Montana or North Dakota? Call anyway. Tell them you will donate to any campaign that opposes them. Any campaign. (Do you have to follow through? That’s not the request I’m making. The request is to tell them they have active and committed enemies in their own party.)

Then call Harry Reid (202-224-3542) and tell him to tell Baucus, Begich, Heitkamp and Pryor:

“You four are risking Democratic control of the Senate. The voters hate this vote and will turn you out of office. Your next employer is on K Street and Obama won’t be your friend. If I bring this bill up again, I expect your votes to be Yes.”

Tell him to say that. Tell him so he gets it and they get it. Reid really doesn’t want his party to lose the Senate. It’s our strongest leverage with that house of Congress. Let’s use it.

In other words, threaten their jobs and threaten their majority. If you’re successful, you’ll have the whole party’s attention. We could pass this bill yet.

Bottom line

I think Reid wants to bring this up again. As of this writing, the underlying bill (S. 649) has been withdrawn, and he voted No procedurally on the Manchin substitute amendment to preserve his right to reintroduce it. The way to a win is open.

Reid needs the wind at his back, and he has it. Public opinion hugely favors this, and the president really wants this win as well. It’s also the right thing to do.

There’s a special benefit to us for taking this on. This is one of the four important fights in Obama’s second term, and three, including this one, are very winnable. For reference, those four fights are benefit cuts, gun safety, Keystone, trade agreements. For those of us who want the world to be different, there’s leverage here that we don’t normally have.

Please help if you can, and if you do help, help forcefully. Five phone calls, once per week (the four NRA senators above plus Reid), is not a lot, but it can have a big effect if the calls don’t stop.

I’ll have more on other actions as they develop. Gun safety activists are planning as we speak.

And thanks!


To follow or send links: @Gaius_Publius

Gaius Publius is a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States.

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