Today, almost four months to the day after a gunman opened fire at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the Senate started voting on a series of amendments to President Obama's gun bill, and the body immediately voted down a bipartisan plan to extended background checks on gun sales. At 54 to 46, most of the Senators approved of the plan, which would have required checks for guns sold online or at gun shows. But that wasn't enough, because Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid took a deal requiring every amendment get 60 votes to pass. Why did he do that? The Washington Post explains:

So, why didn't Reid try to get the unanimous consent agreement to set all amendment votes at a 51-vote threshold?

Because to do that would have opened the bill up to the very likely possibility that amendments favored by gun rights advocates would be added to it. One, for example, would allow gun owners who receive a state-issued permit to carry a concealed weapon to take that weapon into other states that issue such permits.

By agreeing to a 60-vote threshold on all the amendments, gun control advocates have made passage more difficult for the amendments that, in their view, would weaken or, more likely, kill the larger bill.

What Reid was trying to do then was to thread a very fine needle by a) keeping open the possibility that expanding background checks might make it into the bill while b) keeping amendments that would have doomed the bill out of it.

In the end, it was too difficult a task.

Besides 54 senators, a full 80 percent of Americans supported increasing background checks, according to recent polling. And there you have democracy in action: Most senators liked it, most Americans liked it, the president liked it, and it's now dead.

[Image via AP]