Shootout Begins on Gun Control

National Journal

IN THE NEWS: Breakthrough on background checks … Obama challenges GOP on budget … Saturday mail delivery to continue … The return of Anthony Weiner … Mike Rogers mulling Senate run … How government salaries are still going up ... Money for asteroid visits?

THE TAKE

Shootout Begins on Gun Control 

Democrats finally found their much-sought-after Republican dealmaker to reach an agreement on expanded background checks for gun sales. Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin’s deal with GOP Sen. Pat Toomey greatly improves the chances that the Senate will debate—and perhaps pass—the most sweeping gun legislation in 20 years.

It’s a political, and possibly a policy, win for Democrats. But they shouldn't celebrate just yet. If the Senate takes up the bill as expected, Republicans are sure to offer a slew of gun-rights amendments sure to put red-state Democrats in a tough position. And, once debate begins, there’s no guarantee there will be 60 votes to end it.

“Nobody should be counting their chickens before they hatch,” a Senate GOP leadership aide said. “The gun issue will bring some very intense debate, and Democrats have a number of red-state members who very well may not be comfortable voting for this gun package.”

Whatever the outcome, today's action was just the curtain-raiser.

Chris Frates
cfrates@nationaljournal.com

TOP NEWS

OBAMA CHALLENGES GOP TO COMPROMISE ON BUDGET. President Obama made his opening bid in fiscal negotiations with the release today of a fiscal 2014 budget that calls for $3.77 trillion in total spending and leaves a $744 billion deficit, The Hill reports. Obama said the proposal meets Republicans “more than half way.” Predictably, House Speaker John Boehner praised the budget’s cuts to entitlement reforms but was cool to the tax hikes. Obama will have a chance to gauge reaction to his proposal as he dines with GOP senators tonight at the White House. Read more

  • There’s asteroid money! The budget includes $78 million to fund NASA research for a visit to an asteroid. Read about this and six other things to know about the budget. Read more

SENATE REACHES DEAL ON BACKGROUND CHECKS. A bipartisan group of senators revealed a compromise measure today that would expand background checks for gun purchases to gun shows and online vendors and mandate record-keeping measures called for by law-enforcement officials, The New York Times reports. The measure would not apply to some types of gun sales, including those between family members. Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., and Pat Toomey, R-Penn., took the lead in negotiating the compromise. House John Boehner wouldn’t say today whether a gun-control bill would get a vote in his chamber, saying only, “We’re going to review it,” The Hill reported. Read more

  • Roll Callreports that Toomey, the former Club for Growth president, told Manchin that he would not attend the press conference if Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., a cosponsor of the measure, was present.

MICHELLE OBAMA: ‘HADIYA PENDLETON WAS ME.’ First Lady Michelle Obama is in Chicago Wednesday, where she’ll be visiting a South Side high school beset by gun violence. Earlier in the day, the First Lady spoke at a conference focusing on at-risk children, where she mentioned a teenage girl who had performed at President Obama’s inaugural, only to be shot dead weeks later.“Hadiya Pendleton was me. And I was her. But I got to grow up,” she said, according to WLS-TV. The Hillnotes that a foray into a controversial subject like the gun debate is a rarity for her. Read more

RAND PAUL AT HOWARD U: I ‘NEVER WAVERED’ ON CIVIL RIGHTS ACT. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., stopped by Howard University, the historically black college in Washington, D.C., as part of his outreach campaign to minorities, Politico reports (full text here). Paul, who had in the past questioned the landmark 1964 Civil Rights Act, said in response to a question: “I’ve never wavered in my support for civil rights or the Civil Rights Act.” Reaction from students was tepid. Paul is mulling a run for president.

  • “All his examples were from 100 years ago. I wasn’t moved.” – Brendon Patterson, an economic major from Chicago. 

MINUTES: FED CONSIDERED EARLY EASING OF STIMULUS. Minutes released today from a March meeting of the Federal Reserve show that central bankers considered winding down stimulus efforts early if the economy were to pick up, The New York Times reports. The meeting took place before the release of a disappointing jobs report last month, which makes such a move less likely. Read more

  • Whoops, The Fed accidently released the minutes a day early. Find out how it happened here.

MIKE ROGERS TO DECIDE ON SENATE RUN IN ‘NEAR FUTURE.’ Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., said he will decide “within the near future” whether to run for the Senate next year, The Hill reports. “I’m the chairman of the Intelligence Committee that has both civilian and the military intelligence apparatus in it. It's a huge responsibility, and the work is important and impactful,” said Rogers, who is considered the most viable potential Republican candidate to succeed outgoing Democratic Sen. Carl Levin. “I need to decide, is it more impactful to stay and do that as chairman or to kind of pull out of that or run for the Senate?" Read more

POSTAL SERVICE BACKS OFF ENDING SATURDAY SERVICE. The beleaguered U.S. Postal Service is backing off its plan to end Saturday mail service, saying Congress has blocked its efforts, CBS News reports. The Postal Service initially said it would stop service in August – except for packages – as a way to hold down losses, but Congress did not go along with the plan when it passed a spending bill last month. "By including restrictive language ... Congress has prohibited implementation of a new national delivery schedule," the services’ Board of Governors said Wednesday. Read more

NEWLY ENGAGED OBAMA MAKING PROGRESS ON AGENDA. His work isn't done. His agenda is far from his complete. But there is some wind at Obama's back, National Journal’s Ron Fournier reports. "Finally," said a Democratic consultant close to the White House, "he's rolling up his sleeves and getting his hands dirty." A look at how Obama’s willingness to compromise could pave the way for action on guns, immigration, and the budget. Read more

WAS McCONNELL RECORDING ILLEGAL? Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Republicans are unified in their verdict: Those secret recordings that were leaked to Mother Jones magazine were made illegally. But as Talking Points Memo notes, that’s far from certain. If a bug was planted by someone not in the room, then it would likely be illegal. But if the recording was made by someone in the room – even in secret – it would probably not violate wiretap laws. Both the state of Kentucky and the federal wiretap act require only “one-party consent” – meaning that a secret recording known only to the person making that recording would likely not break the law. Read more

TOMORROW

GUN BILL COMES TO SENATE FLOOR, BUT WILL AMENDMENT PROCESS DOOM IT? Gun-control advocates who are already celebrating might want to hold off a bit, The Washington Post reports. While it’s a good sign that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will bring legislation to the Senate floor for a vote Thursday and the Toomey-Manchin deal on background checks has been struck, The Post warns that an open amendment process might ultimately doom the bill. Read more

EPA NOMINEE GETS CONFIRMATION HEARING. Obama’s nominee for EPA chief, Gina McCarthy, will appear before a Senate panel Thursday, and some barbed questions from Republican committee members are expected. On Wednesday, eight GOP senators who sit on the Environment and Public Works Committee wrote a letter to McCarthy blasting her for not responding to requests, The Washington Examiner reported. Included was a query about her possible use of personal e-mails. Read more

OBAMA TO HOST U.N. SECRETARY GENERAL. President Obama will be hosting U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for an Oval Office visit Thursday. He’ll also be awarding a posthumous Medal of Honor to a Korean War hero.

QUOTABLE

"People are generally prepared to get over it, but they don't know if they’re prepared to vote for me. And there's a healthy number of people who will never get over it.... It's a little complicated, because I always attracted a fairly substantial amount of people who didn't like me anyway. I am a bit of a polarizing case." -- Former Rep. Anthony Weiner, asked about recent polling (The New York Times)

BEDTIME READING

ANTHONY WEINER REEMERGES. Former House member, late-night punch line, and Twitter abuser, and possible future New York City mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner is back. Weiner and his wife, Huma Abedin, “present as two people who have painstakingly pieced their life back together,” Jonathan Van Meter writes in The New York Times. It’s the first time the public has gotten a no-holds barred look into the run-up to, revelation of, and fall-out from the Twitter scandal that ended in Weiner’s resignation from Congress. Included in the piece: What Weiner told his wife about the now-infamous photo. Read more

PLAY OF THE DAY

THE LOOMING THREAT OF KIM JONG UN.  George W. Bush’s presidential library opens next month, and David Letterman offered a preview of what the facility will offer to visitors. Late Night’s Jimmy Fallon looked into a possible Sasha Obama presidency and NASA's plans to study an asteroid. Conan O’Brien was the only comedian to look at Obama’s budget proposal, using the occasion to talk about the government selling excess property. He also continued jokes about North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un, connecting the leader to “Gangam Style” singer Psy. Watch it here

REALITY CHECK

WHY THERE’S NEW HOPE FOR GUN CONTROL. Everyone is talking about guns. No matter what happens with the legislation the Senate will take up Thursday, the sheer heft of the conversation could itself be a major victory for the gun-control movement, National Journal's Fawn Johnson reports. The political dynamic is definitely evolving. Senators are freely talking about the finer delineations of expanded background checks, definitions of how mental health should be listed, and the rudiments of the Second Amendment. The president and the vice president also are speaking loudly. There hasn't been a substantive conversation on gun violence in Congress of this magnitude since the 1994 Crime Bill.Read more

KEY INDICATOR

HOW GOVERNMENT SALARIES RISE DESPITE PAY FREEZE. The average salary for government workers – about $78,000 – has actually risen by $1,800 in the past two years, despite a pay freeze that has been in effect during that time, The Washington Post reports. The reason: “While many federal employees have received no increases since the last general increase in January 2010, individual raises still can be paid to employees, if eligible, on promotion, for performance, or on completing waiting periods used in grade- and step-type pay systems,” The Post reports. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., said in a statement: “Our spending priorities are completely out of whack when many employees are being furloughed while at the same time salaries have been increasing during a so-called pay freeze.” Read more

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