Last week, Speaker Thissen announced the MN House would not debate or vote on legislation intended to extend the scope of background checks. After numerous long and contentious committee meetings, public rallies, and press conferences, the concept of expanding background checks disappeared.
Speaker Thissen replied to a comment made by Representative Michael Paymar, Chair of the Public Safety Policy and Finance Committee, about a floor debate and vote on the issue. Thissen disagreed with the idea that voters wanted to see a vote. He commented to NPR:
“Most representatives have been very clear with their constituents about where they stand on the issue,” Thissen said. “I don’t really see the need of having a vote to prove where someone stands on a particular issue. I’ve been very clear with my constituents that I support universal background checks and I don’t need a vote on the House floor to prove that.”
This drama sheds light on more than just the balance between gun violence and constitutional rights. The background check debate, and DFL leadership’s decision to dodge the issue to protect its members, exposed the failure of our system to work for the people who trust it.
House leadership credited its decision to avoid a debate and a vote on the fact that the two sides could not come to an agreement. The national debate after Sandy Hook and a discussion about NRA influence in state and federal politics leave many of us wondering who our elected officials represent.
I understand the power of compromise in state politics – it is almost always the cornerstone of positive policy decisions. That does not mean elected officials should be able to hide behind the lack of compromise to avoid accountability to their constituents.
This type of weak kneed, shelter game is what makes people angry and cynical about politics. It especially stings coming from the party who touts itself as progressive, transparent, and concerned about our well-being. It is one thing to protect members from the other party, it is quite another thing to protect them from the people who put them in office.