This vote was on whether to allow an amendment by Roger Wicker, R-Miss., that would hamper increases in funding for Amtrak unless passengers were allowed to carry firearms in their checked baggage. The amendment was offered was offered to the budget resolution that serves as the blueprint for Congress’ budget priorities in fiscal 2010. The budget resolution sets overall spending targets for the Appropriations committees and outlines other budget rules.
Wicker offered his amendment, and then Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., made a motion to kill Wicker’s amendment because it violates the Senate’s rule that requires that amendments to legislation be related to the topic of the bill itself. Lautenberg argued that Wicker’s amendment was not germane enough to the budget resolution. Wicker then called a vote to waive that rule for his amendment, which requires 60 votes, a high hurdle to pass in the Senate.
Wicker said his amendment is intended to help protect the rights of gun owners, who currently are not allowed to transport firearms in their checked luggage. Wicker said airlines allow this practice and that Amtrak should as well.
“I emphasize that this amendment deals with checked, secured baggage only. It would return Amtrak to a pre-9/11 practice. It does not deal with carry-on baggage. Unlike the airline industry, Amtrak does not allow the transport of firearms in checked bags. This means that sportsmen who wish to use Amtrak trains for hunting trips cannot do so because they are not allowed to check safely a firearm,” Wicker said.
Lautenberg objected to the amendment, calling it “disruptive.”
“He wants to enable the carrying of weapons, guns, in checked baggage. One doesn’t have to be very much concerned about what we are doing when they look at the history of attacks on railroads in Spain and the UK and such places,” Lautenberg said. He then made a parliamentary move to kill Wicker’s amendment because it falls afoul of Senate rules requiring amendments be “germane” (related) to the underling bill.
By a vote of 63-35, the motion to waive the rules and allow Wicker’s amendment was adopted. All but one Republican present voted to waive the rules. Of Democrats present, 22 voted to waive the rules and 33 voted against waiving the rules, including the most progressive members. The end result is that the motion to waive the rules was adopted and Wicker’s amendment was allowed to go forward, adding language that would hamper increases in Amtrak funding unless Amtrak allows passengers to begin carrying firearms in checked luggage.