'Meet the Press' Panel Bemoans Failure of Gun Control Bill, Calls on Senate to 'Kill the Filibuster'

Sunday's NBC Meet the Press panel decried gun background check legislation being voted down in the Senate, with liberal historian Doris Kearns Goodwin lamenting: "Maybe the problem is also the structure of the Senate....given the 60 votes that are needed, given who they listen to, given the power of special interests, public sentiment cannot penetrate." [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]

Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan pleaded: "Something's not working there....we got a thing like Newtown, 90 percent, move it. Small, discrete parts of a bill, push it through, call it a victory, keep going." Special correspondent Tom Brokaw replied: "Well, kill the filibuster bill. I mean – or change it." Goodwin eagerly agreed: "Kill it. Definitely. Definitely. They've got to do that."

The discussion began with Brokaw commenting on the Boston marathon bombing: "Well, what I see is an opportunity for the American citizens to get involved in trying to do something about the culture of violence that has become such a large part of our lives, whether it's guns or whether it's this kind of an attack or whatever it is..."

Moderator David Gregory then observed: "And yet this week as – as this was going on, as the investigation was going on, the Senate defeats a background check bill for – for guns. So we – we are confronting this violence but still very divided about how we react to it and try to solve it."


Here is a transcript of the April 21 exchange:

11:17AM ET

(...)

TOM BROKAW: Well, what I see is an opportunity for the American citizens to get involved in trying to do something about the culture of violence that has become such a large part of our lives, whether it's guns or whether it's this kind of an attack or whatever it is, we're living with it. We're living with the violent video games, for example, that we see. I do think that this is an opportunity for this country to step forward and say, "I want to be part of that debate." And I think that the President could help ignite that in a meaningful way and pull the country together, however you decide your voice ought to be heard in that debate. This is the time for us to have that debate.

Here we are in the 21st century, the most advanced nation in the world, and as I said earlier this week, we have third-world vulnerabilities almost everywhere we go. Our kids are growing up in a way that none of us could have ever have anticipated around this table when we were younger about what kind of a card they have to wear to get into school, the cameras that look at everything that they're doing. The fear that they may go into a classroom and get shot up by somebody or a movie theater. That's outrageous for an advanced country like the United States, without having some kind of a national dialogue about it and putting it at the head of the agenda in my judgment.

DAVID GREGORY: And – and yet this week as – as this was going on, as the investigation was going on, the Senate defeats a background check bill for – for guns. So we – we are confronting this violence but still very divided about how we react to it and try to solve it, Peggy.

PEGGY NOONAN: Yeah, I think the essential problem is that Americans at this point don't trust their government so much to do the right thing. They are skeptical of all bills on things that they care about to – to lower the conversation a little bit, get it down to – to mere politics, I guess. I think there is a problem when you've got 90 percent of the American people wanting something like background checks and a president who's just re-elected and riding a wave, can't make anything move that way. I think there is a problem there, and I think he is having, as somebody said, a problem with the levers of power.

DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN: But maybe the problem is also the structure of the Senate. You know, at the turn of the 20th century when public sentiment wanted a lot of things done to deal with industrialization and the problem of the slums, the Senate was impossible to move because it was millionaires in there. They finally realized they had to have direct election of senators. They used to be elected by the state legislatures and they were only susceptible to special interests. Maybe that's the trouble now, that structural Senate, given the 60 votes that are needed, given who they listen to, given the power of special interests, public sentiment cannot penetrate. And we've seen it now for the last decade. That's what the dysfunction is about. It's not just the Senate, it's the Congress.

BROKAW: And David-

NOONAN: Yeah, but did the Majority Leader Harry Reid follow the President? You know what I mean? Something's not working there.

KEARNS GOODWIN: Well, clearly something is not working.

BROKAW: But – but-

NOONAN: Yeah.

BROKAW: But in those states in which the senators voted against the background check, it's not even close to 90 percent, in terms of wanting it. It's probably down in single digits in Montana and Arkansas and Alaska and North Dakota, the states that block it as Democrats, so you have to take that into consideration.

NOONAN: Yeah, but we got a thing like Newtown, 90 percent, move it. Small, discrete parts of a bill, push it through, call it a victory, keep going.

BROKAW: Well, kill the filibuster bill. I mean – or change it.

KEARNS GOODWIN: Kill it. Definitely. Definitely. They've got to do that.

(...)

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC