Back-to-back massacres in El Paso and Dayton kill 31. Cue the thoughts and prayers!

"Melania and I send our heartfelt thoughts and prayers," tweeted President Trump, who vows to veto gun control.

"Elaine's and my prayers go out to the victims," tweeted Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who blocks votes on gun control.

Do they not realize that "thoughts and prayers" has become a meme, a cynical punchline conveying inaction on guns? It's what people say when they plan to do nothing.

Thoughts and prayers are always welcome, but Republicans' reflexive response to the endless massacres has become a cruel joke, as effective as a Hallmark sympathy card. They seem to realize how weak it sounds: CNN reported that it invited 50 Republican lawmakers to talk about the shootings; only one accepted.

In fairness, Republicans offer more than "thoughts and prayers." They also praise first responders, make various references to heartbreak and promise to "stand" with victims.

Thoughts and prayers stand united! And bonus points if you speak for your wife.

"Mylene and I send our prayers," tweeted Oregon Rep. Greg Walden.

"Wrenzie and I are praying." — South Carolina Rep. Tom Rice.

"Jean and I are praying." — South Dakota Sen. Mike Rounds.

"Tara and I are praying." — Texas Rep. Dan Crenshaw.

Enough prayers. How about some thoughts?

"Mikey and I mourn." — North Dakota Sen. John Hoeven.

"Kay and I are continuing to grieve." — Oklahoma Sen. Jim Inhofe.

"Renee and I are saddened." — North Carolina Rep. Richard Hudson.

"Lucy and I are shocked." — North Carolina Rep. George Holding.

"Maureen and I are deeply troubled." — Indiana Sen. Mike Braun.

And I pray that Mylene, Wrenzie, Jean, Tara, Mikey, Kay, Renee, Lucy and Maureen tell their husbands to stop blocking common-sense gun laws.

A few thought and prayed in fragments: "Praying for comfort for all the families affected" (Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, West Virginia) or "Heartbroken for the people of El Paso, Texas & Dayton, Ohio" (Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, Tennessee).

Still others were observers, calling the play-by-play: "Our nation mourns ... and is praying" (Rep. Tim Walberg, Mich.), "Our hearts are with the victims" (Rep. Drew Ferguson, Georgia), "Our prayers go out" (Rep. David McKinley, West Virginia).

It's a bit like Madlibs: My heart breaks for____. I pray for____. Missouri Rep. Jason Smith: "My heart breaks for the communities" and "I pray for healing." Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski: "Our hearts break for the senseless violence" and "my prayers are with the victims."

Democrats mentioned thoughts and prayers too - as insufficient. Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey complained: "My Republican colleagues cut and paste the words 'thoughts and prayers' into a tweet and then do nothing on gun violence."

But Republicans don't just cut and paste. They take positions! "I stand with the grieving communities," said Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz. A more flexible Tennessee Rep. Mark Green reported that "our entire nation stands — and kneels."

They also join. "I join our entire country in mourning," tweeted Texas Rep. John Ratcliffe. "I join Americans across the country," reported Ohio Rep. Brad Wenstrup.

And Georgia Rep. Barry Loudermilk preemptively chided those who "criticize our calls for earnest prayer."

Actually, we criticize prayer in lieu of action.

Eventually, disgusted Americans will force Republicans to act. Until then, here's a thought: We don't have a prayer.

Dana Milbank is a syndicated columnist. You can follow him on Twitter, @Milbank.


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