Vote blocks concealed weapons bill

WASHINGTON -- The Senate voted last week to block a bill that would have expanded gun rights by allowing licensed owners of firearms to carry concealed weapons into other states.

Senators voted 58-39 to shelve an amendment by Sen. John Thune, R-S.D. Although Thune won support from a majority, he needed 60 votes to prevail under a deal reached among senators.

The amendment would have required individual states to honor concealed weapons permits issued by other states even as the rules for carrying guns might vary from state to state.

All but two states, Wisconsin and Illinois, allow licensed gun owners to carry a hidden weapon. The amendment, strongly supported by the National Rifle Association, would have required the traveling gun owner to honor local laws that might bar hidden weapons in restaurants and other places.

Thune argued expanding the right to carry concealed guns would reduce crime. Thugs would think twice about committing a crime not knowing if their victim might be armed, he said.

The amendment "will allow law-abiding individuals to travel, without complication, throughout the 48 states that currently permit some form of conceal and carry," Thune said. "Law-abiding individuals have the right to self-defense."

Opponents argued the amendment would trample a state's right to determine who can legally carry guns within its borders.

Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., said although 12 states already allow gun owners from neighboring states to carry concealed weapons, 25 make the decision selectively and 11 do not allow visitors to carry hidden guns.

"The Thune amendment is a direct assault on those states," Durbin said. "Congress should not require one state's laws to trump another's."

Sens. Harry Reid, D-Nev., and John Ensign, R-Nev., voted for the Thune amendment.


The Senate voted to discontinue production of the F-22 fighter jet, a victory for President Barack Obama, who had lobbied to discontinue the system critics have said is not needed to fight modern wars.

Obama has said the program should be stopped after 187 of the warplanes have been delivered. Obama said he would veto a Senate defense bill if it continued production of the fighters.

The vote came on a motion to strip $1.75 billion from the defense bill that would have bought seven additional F-22s. Obama prevailed, 58-40.

Reid and Ensign voted to stop F-22 production.

The F-22 was advertised as the world's most advanced fighter that can deflect radar with stealth technology and soar at supersonic speeds.

But critics, including Defense Secretary Robert Gates, have called it an unaffordable Cold War relic that is of little use in small wars and modern insurgencies. They point out the F-22 plays no role in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

Supporters said the United States might get caught short if it ever finds itself at war with a formidable nation like China.

They also said stopping F-22 production would further jolt the economy, since the multibillion-dollar project has created jobs in virtually every state. Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., said 25,000 direct jobs and 95,000 indirect jobs would be put at risk by the Senate vote.

The Senate vote was one step in a debate over the F-22 that is expected to continue later into the year.


The House voted 265-166 for a bill that would require new tax cuts and certain spending to be offset by cost reductions or tax increases elsewhere in the budget.

Supporters said the "pay as you go" bill is key to impose discipline on Congress. It would require automatic spending cuts across the board if a year-end review shows that the cost of bills Congress has passed do not balance with revenues.

Social Security payments, Medicaid and food stamps would be exempted.

Most Republicans voted against the bill, saying it had too many loopholes that would allow Congress to disguise new spending. They said it was weaker than a similar law that was in effect during the 1990s.

Reps. Shelley Berkley and Dina Titus, both D-Nev., voted for the pay-as-you-go bill. Rep. Dean Heller, R-Nev., voted against it.

Republicans offered an alternative that they said would put tighter caps on spending.

But critics said it focused too much on cutting spending and not enough on raising taxes as a way to achieving a pay-as-you-go balance.

The Republican plan was defeated, 169-259. Berkley, Titus and Heller voted against it.

Contact Stephens Washington Bureau Chief Steve Tetreault at stetreault or 202-783-1760.