The Hill’s Morning Report — Will Congress act on guns?

·14 min read

Grief consumed Texas and the country on Wednesday following a gunman’s spree that killed 19 schoolchildren and two teachers in the town of Uvalde on Tuesday. In Washington, lawmakers debated legislating to strengthen gun background checks, “red flag” laws and other steps to respond to Americans’ fury and impatience.

President Biden said Wednesday he will travel to the 16,000-person town “in the coming days” in an attempt to comfort residents as he pleaded with lawmakers to take action on gun control measures in the near future.

“We must ask when in God’s name will we do what needs to be done to, if not completely stop, fundamentally change the amount of the carnage that goes on in this country,” Biden said at the White House before signing an executive order on policing.

“The Second Amendment is not absolute. … You couldn’t own a cannon. You couldn’t own certain kinds of weapons. There’s always been limitations,” Biden added(CBS News).

The president’s remarks came as the gun debate intensified on Capitol Hill despite the possibility that nothing will ultimately overcome the 60-vote threshold in the upper chamber, a story that has played out repeatedly over the past decade. As The Hill’s Alexander Bolton notes, the leading proposal is a bill to deal with “red flag” laws with the intention to keep firearms out of the hands of potentially dangerous people.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) announced that the House will vote after the Memorial Day recess on a bill that would nationalize those laws. The legislation would also empower courts to bar individuals from buying or possessing firearms if a judge deems them to be a threat to themselves or others (The Hill).

Across the Capitol, Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said on Wednesday that senators would have the chance to vote on amendments on gun measures if the Senate GOP agrees to debate on the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act that is set for a vote this week. However, that possibility is exceedingly remote, as Republicans have vowed to block the bill, which garnered only one House Republican vote (The Hill).

The New York Democrat’s remarks came a day after he told lawmakers that he was not planning to bring any gun-related legislation to the floor and would, instead, wait for a possible bipartisan compromise proposal that could garner the requisite 60 votes (The Hill). Among those expected to hold discussions are Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.),Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), a centrist, and Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), who is retiring.

Emily Brooks and Mike Lillis, The Hill: Here are the gun bills stalled in Congress.

Dan Balz: America’s new norm: “Why are we willing to live with this carnage?”

Politico: Biden’s presidency has been colored by crises. It now faces the grimmest one yet.

The New York Times: A timeline of failed attempts to address U.S. gun violence.

© Associated Press / Alex Brandon | Flags fly over the White House at half-staff on Wednesday.

In Texas, state and local officials offered information on Wednesday about the Uvalde shootings, the victims and survivors, and the 18-year-old gunman’s movements up to the moment law enforcement killed him while he was described as armed and barricaded inside a fourth grade classroom.

Lots of information. Few answers. Fewer recommendations.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R), during a midday news conference near the now flower-draped Robb Elementary School, said “there was no meaningful forewarning of this crime,” adding that the suspect, Salvador Ramos, allegedly shot his grandmother in the face prior to his rampage and posted messages to Facebook 30 minutes before he reached the school. The messages said, “I’m going to shoot my grandmother,” “I shot my grandmother” and “I’m going to shoot an elementary school.” The grandmother remained hospitalized on Wednesday, according to reports.

NBC News: Abbott said the young gunman had “a mental health challenge,” adding that Texas needed to “do a better job with mental health.” In April, the governor cut $211 million from the state department that oversees mental health programs. And Texas ranked last out of all 50 states and the District of Columbia for overall access to mental health care, according to a 2021 State of Mental Health in America report.

Abbott, whose job approval was 47 percent last month, described the murders of 21 people and injuries to 17 others as “intolerable” and “unacceptable” without proposing specific action. As he spoke, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke, a 2020 presidential primary candidate, disrupted the news conference to challenge Abbott’s rhetoric, which prompted Uvalde’s mayor to denounce O’Rourke’s behavior as “sick” and “out of line.” O’Rourke was escorted out by security (The Hill and The Dallas Morning News).

Abbott — an ardent Second Amendment defender with an A+ rating from the National Rifle Association (NRA) who says gun control measures are not the answer to mass shootings — added heat to the south Texas swelter by comparing his state to Chicago and its murder rate.

“There are, quote, ‘real’ gun laws in Chicago,” Abbott said. There are more people who are shot every weekend in Chicago than there are in schools in Texas” (CBS News Chicago).

The NRA will hold its annual convention in Houston this weekend, a point of controversy in some parts of Texas because of the elementary school massacre. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), whose Tuesday comments about the right to bear arms invited Democratic criticism, confirmed he will appear. Former President Trump is also expected to speak (The Hill).

Related Articles

The New York Times: After Texas shooting, Cruz digs in against gun control.

CNN exclusive, by Annie Grayer: The House sergeant-at-arms believes lawmakers should not be allowed to carry guns inside the Capitol.

The Hill and Politico: Mass shootings focused attention on Wednesday on Democrats’ push to confirm Biden’s nominee to head the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). ATF has not had a Senate-confirmed leader in seven years.

The Texas Tribune: Texas governor attended a political fundraising event 300 miles away from the site of Tuesday’s school shooting just hours after the murders. 

The New York Times: Uvalde gunman, 18, had no history of mental health problems, according to Texas authorities.

Virtual Event Invite

As a valued subscriber to our newsletters, you’re invited to become a Hill Insider and unlock exclusive benefits, including original content, invitations to special events like Q&As with The Hill’s journalists and early access to new digital features.

Join now — it’s free! — and we’ll automatically sign you up for the next event in our monthly Insider series: Battle for Control of the SenateThursday, June 2 at 12 p.m. ET. Sign up here.

LEADING THE DAY

  POLITICS & PRIMARIES

The Keystone State battle between Mehmet Oz and David McCormick is officially going to a recount, the Pennsylvania secretary of state’s office announced on Wednesday.

Leigh Chapman, Pennsylvania’s acting secretary of state, officially announced the development as the latest vote count shows Oz leading McCormick 917 votes (0.1 percentage points). A recount is put into motion if two candidates are separated by 0.5 percentage points or fewer, according to state law.

The recount is set to start on Friday and be completed by June 7, with results set to be released one day later.

The recount comes amid a legal battle between the two sides. McCormick’s team is suing for the state to count ballots that were not dated, as is typically required, but that were received on or before Election Day. Oz has argued those ballots should be rejected, with the Republican Party of Pennsylvania and the Republican National Committee supporting him (The Hill).

Niall Stanage: The Memo: Winners and losers from Tuesday’s primaries.

Politico: How Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) went from Trump outcast to MAGA vanquisher.

The Washington Post: Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) and Stacey Abrams are in a rematch. A lot has changed since 2018.

CNN: Moderate-turned-MAGA Rep. Elise Stefanik’s (R-N.Y.) stock is rising in Trump world.

Aaron Blake, The Washington Post: Former Sen. David Perdue’s (R-Ga.) historically bad comeback attempt.

© Associated Press / Matt Slocum | Election worker in Chester County, Pa., counts ballots, May 19.

On the Democratic side, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) are the prime targets of a flood of progressive criticism after Rep. Henry Cuellar (D) is expected to narrowly emerge over Jessica Cisneros in Texas’s 28th District.

Cuellar defeated Cisneros by only 177 votes on Tuesday, and did so with the support of the two Democratic leaders as they both recorded robocalls on his behalf in the final days of the campaign. The series of events has angered top progressives who believe Cisneros would have won without their influence.

“On the day of a mass shooting and weeks after news of Roe, Democratic Party leadership rallied for a pro-NRA, anti-choice incumbent under investigation in a close primary. Robocalls, fundraisers, all of it,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) tweeted (The Hill).

Cuellar is the last remaining pro-life member of the House Democratic Caucus and is part of the dwindling group of centrist House Democrats. The race in November is considered a toss-up.

IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

  UKRAINE CRISIS 

Into month four of a devastating war in Ukraine, the death toll is unfathomable, the destruction after shelling and shooting is apocalyptic in many regions, and some countries that want to push Russia back inside its own borders and help Ukrainians rebuild are sounding fatigued and impatient.

The New York Times: The European Union’s proposed oil embargo with Russia is stuck in a standoff, edging after a month from surprising Western unity to “no way” when it comes to Hungary.

International deliberations about sanctions, more weaponry and economic and other aid are in a slow-motion loop, returning to talk of diplomacy and negotiations and edging closer to where some world capitals lingered before Russia invaded Ukraine in February.

Reuters: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Wednesday savaged suggestions that Kyiv give up territory and making concessions to end the war with Russia, saying the idea smacked of attempts to appease Nazi Germany in 1938.

Russian President Vladimir Putin wants to slowly expand Moscow’s control in eastern Ukraine, and on Wednesday, he fast-tracked Russian citizenship for residents in parts of southern Ukraine largely held by his forces, while lawmakers in Moscow passed a bill to strengthen the stretched Russian army, The Associated Press reports. Putin’s decree applying to the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions could allow Russia to strengthen its hold on territory that lies between eastern Ukraine, where Moscow-backed separatists occupy some areas, and the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia seized in 2014.

Reuters reports that in the European Union, cracks are widening over Ukraine as Italy and Hungary urge a truce.

The scars of war, deprivation and uncertainty in Ukraine are everywhere, reports The Associated Press.

The Associated Press: NATO member Turkey says it remains opposed to applications by Finland and Sweden to join the Western military alliance. Why? Because of perceived support of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, and other entities that Turkey views as security threats.

Reuters: Russia has raised the stakes for multinational companies leaving the country. The government is advancing a new law to allow it to take control of the local businesses of western companies that decide to exit because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

  CORONAVIRUS

If you’re an adult of any age, but particularly an older adult, scientists have assembled some downbeat news about long COVID: Coronavirus vaccines that help prevent initial infections and serious illnesses provide some protection against long COVID but, mounting research shows, not as much as scientists had first hoped. And up to a year after an initial coronavirus infection, 1 in 4 adults aged 65 and older had at least one potential long COVID health problem, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (The Associated Press).

Long COVID refers to any of more than two dozen symptoms that linger, recur or first appear at least one month after a coronavirus infection. There are therapies and workouts, but there is no known cure.

It’s yet another reminder that medical strides when it comes to COVID-19, its evolving variants, inflammation and cellular changes after infection, the limits of vaccines, and the future of treatments have yet to be nailed down.

In China, the country’s pursuit of “zero COVID” means regular testing (The New York Times). The endeavor is massive: 99 million residents of central Henan province will be required to take PCR tests every other day by June. In the eastern province of Zhejiang, drivers are tested at highway exits before they can enter. Beijing, which has a small outbreak, is among the cities now requiring a test to get on the subway or enter any public place.

🦠 Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) announced that she tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday with mild symptoms. “I continue to pray for the people of Uvalde, TX, especially the mothers and fathers who have lost their little children in this horrific attack,” she added.

Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported as of this morning, according to Johns Hopkins University (trackers all vary slightly): 1,002,783. Current average U.S. COVID-19 daily deaths are 288, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

📝 Introducing NotedDC, The Hill’s curated commentary on the beat of the Beltway. Click here to subscribe to our latest newsletter.

OPINION

■ The shame of the Texas school massacre, by the Bloomberg Opinion editorial board. https://bloom.bg/3lKQIIE

■ Uvalde, Texas, suffers, yet the political charade goes on, by the San Antonio Express-News editorial board. https://bit.ly/3LMNGOE

WHERE AND WHEN

The House meets on Friday at 9 a.m. for a pro forma session.

The Senate convenes at 10 a.m. and will resume consideration of the motion to proceed to the ​​Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act.

The president and Vice President Harris will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 1:45 p.m. in the Oval Office.

The Labor Department will report at 8:30 a.m. on filings for unemployment benefits in the week ending May 21.

The White House daily briefing is scheduled at 3 p.m.

🖥  Hill.TV’s “Rising” program features news and interviews at http://thehill.com/hilltv, on YouTube and on Facebook at 10:30 a.m. ET. Also, check out the “Rising” podcast here.

ELSEWHERE  

  STATE WATCH

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey (R) on Wednesday announced a $161.5 million settlement between the state and two drug companies over their role in the opioid epidemic. Morrisey’s office described the deal with Teva and Allergan as “record-breaking,” saying it was the highest per capita settlement in the U.S. The news comes as a trial over a lawsuit alleging the companies helped fuel the epidemic was concluding (The Hill). … States are divided on gun control, even as mass shootings rise. The majority have taken no action on gun control in recent years. That’s because they are either controlled politically by Republicans who oppose gun restrictions or are politically divided, which results in stalemate on gun proposals (The Associated Press). … Oklahoma Gov. Greg Stitt (R) on Wednesday signed one of the nation’s strictest abortion laws. In a rebuke of Roe v. Wade, the state’s law bans termination of pregnancy from the stage of “fertilization” and allows private citizens to sue abortion providers who “knowingly” perform or induce an abortion “on a pregnant woman” (CNN).

© Associated Press / Richard Drew | Teva logo, 2019.

TECH

Twitter agreed to pay $150 million to end a privacy lawsuit brought by the Federal Trade Commission and Justice Department. The settlement, made public Wednesday, concerns allegations that the platform improperly collected user data between 2014 and 2019. Twitter asked for phone numbers and email addresses from users to secure their accounts and allowed advertisers to subsequently use that information in targeted ads, according to the complaint (The Hill).

THE CLOSER

© Associated Press / Doug Mills | Clintons on vacation, 1995.

Try our Morning Report Quiz

And finally … It’s Thursday, which means it’s time for this week’s Morning Report Quiz! Inspired by the summer months ahead, we’re eager for some smart guesses about the history of former presidents, first ladies and some camping.

Email your responses to asimendinger@thehill.com and/or aweaver@thehill.com, and please add “Quiz” to subject lines. Winners who submit correct answers will enjoy some richly deserved newsletter fame on Friday.

In May 1903, former President Theodore Roosevelt’s three-day adventure camping under the stars with naturalist John Muir in Yellowstone Valley inspired Roosevelt to create what?

  1. White House conifer garden

  2. Yellowstone National Park

  3. Portrait of Muir to hang in Roosevelt’s White House quarters

  4. New railroad route to northwest Wyoming

While campaigning for a second term during the summer of 2012, former President Obama mentioned to audiences that daughters Sasha and Malia had enjoyed a month of sports, crafts and “some ice cream” at summer camp in which politically noteworthy state?

  1. New Hampshire

  2. Hawaii

  3. South Dakota

  4. Louisiana

In the summer of 1995, former President Clinton and former first lady Hillary Clinton vowed to spend 17 days of leisurely vacation in the wilderness-peaceful Grand Tetons to enjoy horseback riding, hikes, rafting and a little golf. How long did they stay?

  1. They changed their minds and went to Martha’s Vineyard

  2. One week

  3. 10 days

  4. 17 days

Which former first lady as a young woman was a dance instructor during summers at Camp Bryn Afon in Wisconsin?

  1. Mamie Eisenhower

  2. Pat Nixon

  3. Betty Ford

  4. Laura Bush

Stay Engaged

We want to hear from you! Email: Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver. Follow us on Twitter (@alweaver22 & @asimendinger) and suggest this newsletter to friends!

For the latest news, weather, sports, and streaming video, head to The Hill.