GOP senators suddenly silent on canceling summer vacation to address a crisis


Sens. Joni Ernst (R-IA) and Thom Tillis (R-NC) don't want to cancel August recess to address the gun violence crisis, despite being willing to skip their vacations in previous years.

When it comes to doing something — anything — to address the gun violence crisis in America, Sens. Joni Ernst (R-IA) and Thom Tillis (R-NC), two of the country's most vulnerable senators, are suddenly very committed to their monthlong August vacation.

For the past two years, Ernst and Tillis have called on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to cancel the traditional August break.

In 2017, Ernst, Tillis, and about a dozen Republican senators wrote to McConnell to "respectfully request" he "consider truncating, if not completely foregoing, the scheduled August state work period, allowing us more time to complete our work."

The following year, the same two senators joined a letter stating, "We, and the American people, expect Congress to work tirelessly to restore American greatness." In the letter, the senators vowed to work nights, weekends, and even skip their August break to get things done.

Yet in the days following the mass murder of more than 30 people in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, Ernst and Tillis are refusing to make the same type of public demand of McConnell to cancel the recess and call a vote on gun safety legislation. Their demands to work in August from previous years have now been replaced with a complicit silence.

"Americans are worried about their safety following two mass shootings in less than 24 hours and are looking to our elected officials to do something," Robert Howard, spokesperson for the North Carolina Democratic Party, said in a statement on Monday. "Senator Tillis twice called on the Senate to cancel recess to pass legislation to fund our government. Surely protecting the lives of North Carolina families by addressing gun violence is just as high of a priority for Senator Tillis?"

About 160 days ago, the House of Representatives passed a gun safety bill requiring universal background checks on all gun purchases. The bipartisan bill passed the House in February, yet McConnell refuses to even allow a vote on it.

The nation's police chiefs took to Twitter to beg Congress to pass this bill, yet their pleas have not moved Ernst or Tillis to take any action.

Ernst's silence could be influenced by the $3.1 million the National Rifle Association has spent on her campaigns over the years. In a March 2018 interview, Ernst reiterated her commitment to the NRA and refused to distance herself from the organization opposed to gun safety legislation. "No, I am not separating myself from the NRA," Ernst said.

Tillis has about a million more reasons to stay silent, since the NRA has spent more than $4.4 million helping him over the years.

In the past few months, the NRA has spent $1.6 million lobbying against the background check legislation and other bills in Congress. Judging by the silence of Ernst and Tillis, the group seems to be getting quite a return on their investments.

In the past, Ernst and Tillis boasted that doing their job "requires a certain time commitment." But when it comes to making Walmart stores, malls, schools, and houses of worship safe from mass shootings, an August vacation suddenly becomes a top priority.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.