That’s the expression Senator Jeff Flake, Republican of Arizona, used to characterize how some critics viewed him after he voted against expanding background checks two week ago during the gun control debate in Congress.
In a posting today on his Facebook page, Flake conceded that his “poll numbers have indeed taken a southerly turn.” He is home in Arizona for a week long break from Washington, where he bluntly acknowledged the criticism. ”Nothing like waking up to a poll saying you’re the nation’s least popular senator,” a message on Flake’s Facebook page said. “Given the public’s dim view of Congress in general, that probably puts me somewhere just below pond scum.”
The gun control debate is quiet in Washington, but it is only getting started at home for some senators, particularly those who were on the fence but opposed a bipartisan compromise on expanding background checks for people who buy weapons at gun shows and on the internet.
Senator Kelly Ayotte, Republican of New Hampshire, faced a confrontational exchange during a town meeting today in Warren, N.H. The daughter of the principal killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School challenged Ayotte on her vote against the background check measure, according to the Political Scoop blog on WMUR.com.
Related: Gun Control Group Targets Ayotte
“You had mentioned that date you voted, owners of gun stores that the expanded background checks would harm,” said Erica Lafferty, whose mother was killed in the Newtown, Conn., shooting four months ago. “I’m just wondering why the burden in of my mother being gunned down in the halls of her elementary school isn’t as important.”
Ayotte has been besieged with advertising from both sides of the gun debate. She apologized to Lafferty for her loss, but renewed her objections to the background check bill, saying she did not believe it would have prevented the mass shooting in Newtown.
The legislation to expand background checks, which was sponsored by Senators Joe Manchin, Democrat of West Virginia, and Pat Toomey, Republican of Pennsylvania, fell short of receiving 60 votes in the Senate on April 17. The failure effectively put the gun control measures on hold for now – perhaps for the rest of the year in Congress – but not necessarily in the minds of voters and advocates, as today’s events in New Hampshire and elsewhere indicated.