Jun 3, 2022 - Politics

Hot seat: Strickland defends Democrats' work on gun control

Photo illustration of U.S. Rep. Marilyn Strickland, in an instant photo pinned to a red wall.
Photo Illustration: Axios Visuals. Photo: Melissa Santos

Washington state's newest member of Congress says the best way to pass federal gun control legislation is for voters to turn out and elect more Democrats this November.

Driving the news: During an interview for Axios Seattle's Hot Seat series last week, Strickland said that although Democrats control the House and have a tie-breaking vote in the U.S. Senate, that's unlikely to be enough to pass major gun-control legislation.

What they're saying: Strickland, who was elected in 2020, said the Democratic-controlled House keeps passing good legislation — including on guns — only for it to die in the Senate.

  • "We are in a situation right now where we kind of have two people holding us hostage, along with the Republican Party," Strickland said.
  • Strickland was referring to Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, who have opposed getting rid of the filibuster to pass bills on a party-line vote.
  • Without a way around the filibuster, the Senate needs 10 Republican votes to pass most bills.

Zoom in: Strickland pointed to a universal background check measure as one that has broad public support and passed the House, but has hit a wall in the Senate.

  • "If we are able to expand our majority, we'll have more control over getting things over the finish line in the Senate and to the president's desk," Strickland said.

Yes, but: Two of the gun control measures Strickland supports — a ban on assault-style weapons and a ban on large-capacity magazines — have yet to pass the Democratic-controlled House.

On the filibuster, Strickland said she would support bypassing the 60-vote requirement to pass gun-control legislation, as well as abortion-rights protections.

  • That could mean approving the bills through the budget reconciliation process, which requires only 50 Senate votes (plus Vice President Kamala Harris to break the tie).
  • Strickland stopped short of saying she would favor getting rid of the filibuster entirely, however, saying only that it would be "a good discussion."

Strickland didn't accept the conventional wisdom that Democrats are likely to lose seats in November, as they often do two years into a Democratic presidency.

  • "I do think there are chances to expand in the Senate," Strickland told Axios, pointing to Ohio, North Carolina and Wisconsin as possible pickups for Democrats this year.
Hot seat speed round

On whether she and other Democrats have actually been able to get anything done: "I would say if you look at the American Rescue Plan, we got a lot of money sent to local government."

  • "If you look at the work we did with the infrastructure plan … that's a really big deal to have a bipartisan bill that actually turns into law, which is going to bring billions of dollars to Washington state."

On taking donations from certain PACs, such as an Amazon employee PAC: "Having PAC money from folks doesn't mean you are beholden to them. It just means you're willing to listen to their point of view, but you are going to vote your conscience and do what you think is best for the greater good."

On the president's recent policing order, which doesn't go as far as the George Floyd Justice In Policing Act that she supported: "This is progress. I tell people, let's take the win. Let's take the progress and continue to refine to make things better … It is limited, but I think the choice is between (having) zero and 65% of what you wanted."

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