Giffords Gets Shot and Congress Will Do… Very Little

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What will the legislative fallout be from the tragedy in Tucson? Probably nothing at all. Frankly, there’s little they can do.

Thus far members have come up with a variety of ideas:

–Rep. Dan Burton (R-IN) renewed his call to install a Plexiglas shield between the gallery and the House floor – because members should be handled like the Mona Lisa, seen and appreciated through bomb-proof glass by people who’ve already gone through two security check points.

–Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-IL) suggested not only doing away with Speaker Boehner’s 5% cut in members’ budgets but adding an additional 10% to help members beef up security.

–Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME) wants Republicans to rename their ‘Repeal of the Job-Killing Health Care Bill Act’ to a more “civil” title.

–Rep. Peter King (R-NY) is introducing legislation to ban the possession of firearms within 1,000 feet of lawmakers.

–Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY) and Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) are introducing a bill that would renew a Clinton-era ban high-capacity ammo magazines – thereby limiting the number of bullets to 10 per magazine. The ban lapsed in 2004 under the Bush Administration.

–Rep. Robert Brady (D-PA) plans on introducing legislation banning “threatening symbols and language” against a federal official. Sarah Palin found this proposal particular offensive. “Less than a week after Congresswoman Giffords reaffirmed our protected freedoms, another member of Congress announced that he would propose a law that would criminalize speech he found offensive,” she said in her Facebook video this morning.

-Rep. Louis Gohmert (R-TX) will reportedly introduce legislation allowing members to carry concealed weapons in Washington DC, including in the Capitol and on the House floor (though if Burton has his way, the only people they’ll be defending themselves from on the Floor is each other). The District of Columbia doesn’t allow any concealed weapons.

While Speaker John Boehner called for a “free exchange of ideas” today on the House floor, the truth is nothing is likely to pass this week or ever. The only piece of legislation the House will consider this week is a resolution in support of Rep. Giffords and the shooting victims which is expected to pass by voice vote this afternoon. After that the Republicans leave on their annual retreat. The odds of the GOP agreeing to increase members’ budgets in this economic climate are slim-to-none. Likewise, any proposals to restrict or loosen gun control are unlikely to pass. I’m not entirely sure Brady’s bill would be constitutional. The GOP has been mum about renaming their bill. And, well, Burton’s been proposing enclosing the People’s House for years to mostly dumbfounded reactions from his colleagues.

Should members get security? Rope themselves off from the public? The truth is, the government can ill afford the massive details it would take to protect all 535 congressmen and Senators 24/7. It’s part of the job to get out there amongst constituents – and 99.9% of the time that’s for the better, not for the worse.

Obviously, there are ongoing serious discussions on how to better protect members and investigate threats. Beefing up these conversations is likely to be the only action congressional leaders take in response to the shootings.