Harry Reid

Inaction Response to Navy Yard Shooting

The latest mass shooting, this time perilously close to the U.S. Capitol, has produced the same thud of silence in Congress.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told reporters he still lacks the votes to pass any significant gun control legislation. And if the Democratically controlled Senate is stymied, you can imagine the challenge in the GOP-controlled House.

Perhaps it is one of those telling yet cruel coincidences that two Colorado state senators who voted for legislation requiring universal background checks were just recalled in special elections. And this is in a state that has experienced two recent mass shootings. The alleged Navy Yard shooter had been arrested in Seattle for firing three pistol shots into the tires of a man who angered him. The Navy contractor in DC said he never would have hired the shooter if he had known. But the message in the Colorado election left a deeper impression. 

The shooting spree Monday at the Navy Yard, which is at the edge of Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, sent shudders down a lot of backs across America, including those of men and women in the military. Despite their security, military bases have become ready-made targets for shooters with nobody in particular to kill, but with the ability to walk into a gun shop and legally buy a shotgun.

There was huge irony in the White House Rose Garden as President Obama, trying to put the Syrian chemical weapons episode in the rearview mirror, held a press conference to refocus national attention — and the attention of House GOP leaders — on the still-flagging U.S. economy. While he spoke, Congress and other government offices were in lock-down while authorities searched for potential additional shooting suspects in the neighborhood.

Northwest Delegation Gains Clout

Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley lands a prize committee assignment, symbolizing the current Northwest congressional delegation's escalating clout in Congress.The Pacific Northwest congressional delegation climbed the ladder of seniority and power in Washington, DC this week, which could translate into more favorable attention to regional concerns.

Oregon Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley cashed in on his support of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid by landing a seat on the Senate Appropriations Committee. He will be the first Oregon congressional member to sit on Appropriations in either the House or Senate since the late Senator Mark Hatfield 15 years ago.

In the arcane, playground rules of Congress, the Appropriations Committee is where individual members go to "work some magic" on a particularly important local project to their district. When you join this committee, you suddenly have lots of friends and forgotten relatives.

Merkley isn't your "bring home the bacon at any cost" kind of guy. But he isn't a fool, either. He faces re-election and needs to buck up support in rural parts of the state. Senate Appropriations is the perfect platform to become everyone's best buddy.

Washington Democratic Senator Maria Cantwell will assume the gavel of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee. The Oregonian's Jeff Mapes wrote that Cantwell's ascension to the chair of this committee vindicates the efforts by Washington Indian tribes to defeat former Senator Slade Gorton and elect Cantwell. They have gone from someone they despised to a committee chair they trust.