It’s Unanimous: In the Senate, Neither Party Consents to the Other’s Ideas

In the Senate, the term “U.C.” stands for “unanimous consent” — usually verbal shorthand for an agreement by all senators to quickly take up and pass a bill. But with the November elections just months away, it might as well stand for: “You see? Our political opponents are dead wrong on this issue.”

With the focus of the political universe turning to the upcoming fight for control of Congress and the White House, lawmakers are spending most of their time not on real legislative work but in trying to corner their rivals on hot-button issues.

On the Senate floor in recent days, those efforts have often taken the form of unanimous consent requests that are designed to fail, thus spotlighting one party or another’s refusal to agree to a policy proposal.

Such procedural skirmishes provide a shortcut to Senate showdowns on wedge issues or subjects on which one party believes it has the upper hand. That was the case on Tuesday, when Democrats attempted to quickly bring up and pass a bill that would outlaw gun bump stocks after the Supreme Court last week struck down a ban on the devices.

Like similar recent maneuvers, Democrats knew the U.C. attempt would fail because of a Republican objection, but they tried anyway in a bid to give themselves a talking point against the G.O.P.

“What today’s bill does is return things to the status quo set by Donald Trump, saying bump stocks are dangerous and should be prohibited,” Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the majority leader, said on Tuesday. “Senate Republicans by and large supported Donald Trump’s ban on bump stocks back then, so they should support this bill today.”

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