Push for gun safety regulation goes on.
Greg Sargent: The president’s push for expanded background checks failed, but that doesn’t mean the push for gun control is over — far from it. The defeat of Manchin-Toomey was only round one in what will likely be a long battle to build a new constituency for stricter gun laws to reduce the country’s persistent gun violence.
To wit, Politico reports this morning that Vice President Joe Biden-who will appear tonight at a South Carolina Democratic dinner-plans to take “trips around the country to stump for the expanded background checks and gun trafficking laws that failed to pass the Senate last month.”
In particular, he will travel to the home states of Senators Kelly Ayotte, Max Baucus, Mark Begich and Lisa Murkowsi, each of whom has seen a precipitous drop in their approval rating since voting against background checks. Baucus is retiring next year, and Ayotte and Murkowski aren’t up for reelection until 2016. But Begich is running next year, and might be vulnerable to immediate pressure. Even Ayotte has something to worry about — she will run for a second term during a presidential election, where Democratic voters are energized and more numerous. At some point, she will have to appeal to non-Republicans.
And that will mean distancing herself from a National Rifle Association that has walked further and further into the waters of extremism.
Obviously, these appearances serve two purposes — to put potential defectors on the spot, thereby winning more background check votes, and to make gun safety an issue in the 2014 races. Democrats clearly have polling that shows the issue is a potential winning strategy for the party to hold the Senate; otherwise, it’s hard to see them risking putting Democratic senators on the hot seat.
Once again, Republicans find their traditional wedge issues turning against them. They’ve lost immigration and gay rights, they’ve lost reproductive freedom and the environment, and now guns are a loser too. If Democrats turn this into an issue-based election, Republicans lose.
So count on this being a wedge issue election and expect the GOP to find themselves on the sharp end of those wedges.
President Obama unveils firearms reform package.
President Obama on Wednesday formally proposed the most expansive gun-control policies in generations and initiated 23 separate executive actions aimed at curbing the nation’s gun violence.
Obama signed executive orders and paperwork initiating immediate administrative actions, including steps to strengthen the existing background-check system to keep guns out of the hands of potentially dangerous people as well as to improve mental health and school safety programs.
The president also called on Congress to swiftly pass legislation to ban assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines for civilian use and to require universal background checks for all gun buyers. Obama’s proposals include mental health and school safety measures, as well as a tough new crackdown on gun trafficking.
Speaking before Obama, Vice President Biden said “we have a moral obligation” to diminish the prospect that tragedies such as last month’s massacre in an elementary school in Connecticut could happen again.
“I have no illusions about what we’re up against,” Biden said. But he added: “The world has changed, and it’s demanding action.”
Is the White House blowing the debt limit fight?
Paul Krugman gets a call from the White House after they rejected the trillion dollar coin idea to stave off default on the nation’s bonds:
“The White House insists that it is absolutely, positively not going to cave or indeed even negotiate over the debt ceiling — that it rejected the coin option as a gesture of strength, as a way to put the onus for avoiding default entirely on the GOP.”
Wall Street Journal: “The White House also has rejected another escape clause: invoking the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution and borrowing more even if Congress hasn’t acted.
An unnamed Democratic Senate aide told Business Insider’s Joe Weisenthal, “It’s certainly a strange negotiating strategy to go out of your way to decrease your leverage by taking options off the table.”
I’m taking “strange” to mean “bad,” because it sure looks stupid. The White House has released a statement that partly explains their reasoning:
“There are only two options to deal with the debt limit: Congress can pay its bills or they can fail to act and put the nation into default,” said Press Secretary Jay Carney. “When Congressional Republicans played politics with this issue last time putting us at the edge of default, it was a blow to our economic recovery, causing our nation to be downgraded. The President and the American people won’t tolerate Congressional Republicans holding the American economy hostage again simply so they can force disastrous cuts to Medicare and other programs the middle class depend on while protecting the wealthy. Congress needs to do its job.”
Yes, the last time Republicans held the debt limit hostage it blew up in their face. Maybe they’re spooked by that — but maybe they’re not. It’s pointless to gamble when you’ve got a sure thing. I have no idea why they’re throwing every bargaining chip they have away and depending on the Republicans to behave rationally.
It makes no damned sense at all.
White House to use executive orders to stem gun violence.
Prior to meeting with gun victims and safety groups on Wednesday, Vice President Joe Biden said that a White House commission on gun violence was weighing all available means to reform laws in the wake of the Newtown, Conn. mass shooting — including executive orders the President may issue in addition to legislative remedies already sought.
“The president is going to act,” Biden said. “Executive order, executive action that can be taken, we haven’t decided what that is yet. But we’re compiling it all with the help of the attorney general and all the rest of the cabinet members as well as legislative action, we believe, is required.”
Biden is scheduled to meet with gun owners and representatives of the National Rifle Association, the country’s powerful gun lobby, on Thursday.
That ought to go well, huh? We’ve seen how serious the blood lobby is about reducing gun violence — i.e., they aren’t. They’re a trade association, they want to sell bullets and guns — as many as possible — and they don’t really give a damn who’s buying. If you think people couldn’t possibly be that evil, I refer you to the tobacco industry and their “smoking doesn’t cause cancer” campaign — a campaign they launched while sitting on research that showed the opposite. If corporate America can make a buck killing people, corporate America will make a buck killing people. We know that because they’ve done it many times before. Don’t expect a lot of help from that front.
But the news that the president will use — excuse the metaphor — a double-barreled approach of legislation and executive orders is good news. Short of a lawsuit, there’s very little Republicans can do about executive orders and those would hinge on the constitutionality of the order — if it’s constitutional, there ain’t jack they can do. The bad news would be that a future president could rescind the orders.
Still, the White House will get a lot more done with executive orders than it will talking to the NRA. You have to believe that such talks are merely window-dressing. Nothing can possibly come of them.