In a move that has drawn criticism, confusion, and more than a few comments about strange bedfellows, the Senate recently voted 67-29 to add a gun-rights amendment to a consumer credit-card bill. The provision, which was authored by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla), requires national parks to abide by state gun laws and would allow park visitors to carry concealed weapons.
Drawing a connection between credit-card reform and pistol-packing park visitors is nearly impossible. "I would have preferred that matter to be left to another bill," said Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), the bill's primary sponsor. Dodd added: "I hate to see us lose this opportunity to make a difference with credit-card reform."
Even the amendment's supporters had a hard time justifying its inclusion. "Why is this [gun amendment] being included in this [credit bill]?" mused Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo). "The answer is, this is the Senate, where everything is germane."
This justification seems bizarrely open-ended, yet surprisingly honest. After all, Udall's explanation ultimately boils down to a suggestion that the Senate is a wild, wacky place where any two things can be connected by nothing more than back-room deals and creative legislation. Agricultural regulation and air-traffic control? Ethics reform and defense expenditures? Educational standards and hot-dog ingredients? In the bizarro world of the Senate, anything can be linked by a need for votes.
Some analysts have suggested that the Coburn amendment is an attempt to derail the passage of the bill. The idea is that, by including a controversial proviso, the Senate has made it possible to stall the legislation more-or-less indefinitely. Coburn claims that this was not his intention: "I don't want to see [the bill] fail on this [...] nor do I want to see the Second Amendment trampled on."
Political analyst (and Walletpop contributor) Lita Epstein argues that, given the Obama administration's clear opposition to guns in national parks, this amendment will probably be stripped as part of a House/Senate conference. The bill originally passed in the House without Coburn's proviso, so this seems to be a likely conclusion. Then again, with political necessity calling the shots, who knows what amendments will ultimately be attached to the final product? Maybe, one day, Alaska will finally get its Bridge to Nowhere.