A short time ago, Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado appeared on CBS’ Face the Nation. Although most of the questions from today’s interview with Margaret Brennan focused on relations with North Korea following President Donald Trump’s confusing foreign policy announcements late last week, at the end of the interview Gardner was asked about his role–not previously reported–in blocking legislation sponsored by GOP Texas Sen. John Cornyn to strengthen background checks for firearms purchases. This is legislation Sen. Cornyn has been working on since the Sutherland Springs, Texas shooting last year that killed 26 people.
In the clip below, you can see something fairly amazing and rare: one of the slickest U.S. Senators flopping like a fish:
MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to quickly ask you about guns. Texas Senator John Cornyn has a bill proposing strengthening the background check system. Is it correct that you have put a hold on this? [Pols emphasis]
SEN. CORY GARDNER: I think there are some of us who are talking about due process issues in the bill and legislation. I’ve talked to Senator Cornyn and I hope that Senator Cornyn will realize that we need to work this due process matter out. This isn’t a issue of whether you like this or not, it’s a question of constitutional rights and protecting the people of this country, protecting them from harm —
MARGARET BRENNAN: So, you are blocking the bill for now? [Pols emphasis]
SEN. CORY GARDNER: — and, and making sure we’re protecting people from harm and making sure that we get this right and if there’s a constitutional issue at, at stake then that should be worked out.
MARGARET BRENNAN: But to clarify from your answer there. [Pols emphasis] Are you blocking this bill from the floor?
SEN. CORY GARDNER: This bill can come to the floor and we will continue to work through an amendment process and I hope that we can fix those amendments.
MARGARET BRENNAN: After you fix this bill you will allow it to go to the floor but not before this? [Pols emphasis]
SEN. CORY GARDNER: Well I think if we can have an, an amendment process that works to fix due process concerns real constitutional issues, then I hope that’s something that we can do. I hope that people who support this bill are interested, like all of us, in making sure we’re protecting the American people from harm.
MARGARET BRENNAN: All right. Senator Gardner, thank you very much for joining “Face the Nation.”
SEN. GARDNER: Thanks for having me. Thank you.
It’s technically true that Gardner never answered the question–but by the time it was asked a fourth time, he didn’t have to. Gardner has years of experience sticking to a tight script with the media, but there’s a point at which these repetitious non-answers become worse for Gardner than simply giving the answer everyone knows and he just doesn’t want to say. Yes, Cory Gardner, who has taken almost four million dollars from the National Rifle Association during his career in politics, is the one blocking a fellow Republican’s bill to strengthen gun background checks. A bill that over 90% of Americans want passed.
Gardner was not prepared to answer this question, even though he obviously should have been. This was an absolutely disastrous performance for the head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, and a rare glimpse into the incredible behind-the-scenes power the NRA wields in Washington through people like Cory Gardner.
We know the answer to a very important question: why does gun safety legislation the public overwhelmingly supports never seem to become law, no matter how grisly the headlines from the latest mass shootings? No matter how unthinkably large the body counts have become at Las Vegas and Sutherland Springs and Parkland? No matter how many politicians in both parties agree it’s time to do something?
Cory Gardner just showed the world.