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Wake Up To Politics - June 13, 2022

Wake Up To Politics: What’s in the Senate gun control deal
Wake Up To Politics - June 13, 2022

by Gabe Fleisher

Good morning! It’s Monday, June 13, 2022. Election Day 2022 is 148 days away. Election Day 2024 is 876 days away.

What’s in the Senate gun control deal

A bipartisan group of 20 senators — comprised of 10 Democrats and 10 Republicans — announced Sunday that they had agreed to a tentative framework for a modest gun safety bill.

If the measure is signed into law, it will be the farthest Congress has gone in restricting access to guns since the 1994 assault weapons ban.

Here’s what’s in the agreement:

The deal

The framework has five main parts to it:

  1. Providing grants to states to help them set up “red flag laws,” which allow law enforcement to temporarily take firearms away from someone deemed by a judge to be a danger to themselves or others
  2. Implementing enhanced background checks for young gun buyers under 21 years of age, which would include an “investigative period to review juvenile and mental health records”
  3. Closing the “boyfriend loophole,” which will prohibit someone from buying a gun if they have been convicted of abusing a serious romantic partner — not just a spouse, as the law currently requires
  4. Federal prohibitions on gun trafficking (weapons being brought from states where they’re legal to where they’re illegal) and straw purchases (when someone agrees to buy a firearm for someone else, often so the second person can avoid a background check)
  5. Increased funding for children and family mental health services, school-based mental health services, school safety resources, and telehealth programs

“Obviously, it does not do everything that I think is needed, but it reflects important steps in the right direction, and would be the most significant gun safety legislation to pass Congress in decades,” President Biden said in a statement.

Many of Biden’s most ambitious gun control proposals — reinstating the assault weapons ban, prohibiting high-capacity ammunition magazines, raising the age to buy a semiautomatic weapon — were left on the cutting room floor in the negotiations (if they were even considered).

Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy was the top Democratic negotiator on gun control. (Paul Morigi / Brookings Institution)

The 10 Republicans

It’s possible that the biggest surprise in this announcement wasn’t the framework itself — its provisions tracked roughly with what senators had been telling reporters to expect for days.

Instead, the biggest surprise might have been the fact that 10 Republican senators had already signed on to it, since it wasn’t publicly known that so many GOP senators were involved in the negotiations

Of course, 10 Republicans is a crucial number in the current 50-50 Senate: that’s how many are needed to break a filibuster and advance a piece of legislation (if all 50 Democrats support the bill as well).

If this deal is able to keep all 10 Republicans on board as it advances through the legislative process, that means it will be able to pass through the Senate and become law.

Here are the 10 Republicans who gave their support to the new framework: Roy Blunt (MO), Richard Burr (NC), Bill Cassidy (LA), Susan Collins (ME), John Cornyn (TX), Lindsey Graham (SC), Rob Portman (OH), Mitt Romney (UT), Thom Tillis (NC), and Pat Toomey (PA).

The most obvious thing these Republicans have in common is they all face relatively few immediate political pressures, which would have eased their ability to strike a deal on such a hot-button issue.

Utah Sen. Mitt Romney is the only Republican senator involved in the gun control talks facing voters in the next two years. (Gage Skidmore)

Not a single one of the 10 Republican senators is running for re-election in the fall. Half of them (Cassidy, Collins, Cornyn, Graham, and Tillis) won’t face voters until 2026; the four who would be up for re-election this year (Blunt, Burr, Portman, and Toomey) are all retiring.

That leaves only Romney, who is up for re-election in 2024. He has not said whether he’ll seek another term — but, regardless, he has already broken with his party several times before.

He shares that occasional-maverick streak with many of the other Republicans on this list, which includes five of the seven Republicans who voted to convict former President Trump. (The other two are Lisa Murkowski, who could also vote for the deal, and Ben Sasse, who is less likely to.)

The 10 Republicans were led by Cornyn, who was tapped by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to be the party’s chief negotiator on guns.

Cornyn was a particularly interesting choice since he’s seen as a possible successor to McConnell when the GOP leader eventually steps down.

It’s unclear whether the passage of this deal would help him with that goal: on one hand, it would show his ability to shepherd bipartisan legislation through a divided Senate. On the other, it could dampen his support among key conservatives.

Texas Sen. John Cornyn was tapped to lead the Republican side in the gun control talks. (Gage Skidmore)

The path forward

Sunday’s announcement is a promising step for gun control advocates — but it is far from the end of the line.

The framework that was released is not final legislative text; it’s possible that changes could be made (and key supporters could be lost) as negotiators transform the outline into an actual piece of legislation.

It’s also unknown how long that process will take. Democratic leaders, who immediately announced their support for the framework, are anxious to get it through the legislative process quickly.

“Once the text of this agreement is finalized, I will put this bill on the floor as soon as possible so that the Senate can act quickly to advance gun-safety legislation,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said in a statement.

Again, though, perhaps the most interesting comment on Sunday came from the Republican side of the aisle.

McConnell released a statement announcing support for the negotiations. While it wasn’t an explicit endorsement of the framework itself, he noted his appreciation for the senators who had worked on it and said the outline shows “the value of dialogue and cooperation.”

If McConnell were to support the final piece of legislation, it would be likely that quite a bit more than 10 Republicans will sign on.

Even such an encouraging statement from McConnell — a Kentucky conservative who has been loath to support restrictions on gun access — shows how unique this moment is, after the school shooting in Uvalde that killed 19 fourth-graders and rocked the nation.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell issued a statement offering some praise for the gun control agreement. (Gage Skidmore)

What else to watch this week: More January 6th hearing

The House January 6th committee, fresh off its debut last Thursday, will hold three more hearings — though none in primetime — this week.

The panel will convene again at 10 a.m. Eastern Time today, followed by additional sessions on Wednesday and Thursday.

Today’s hearing will focus on “the big lie,” the falsehood repeatedly told by President Trump and his allies that he won the 2020 presidential election.

The hearing is expected to examine the origins of the lie, while also connecting the dots between Trump’s promotion of the lie and the eventual January 6th riot — and making the case that Trump and his allies knew it was a lie even as they continued to spread it.

Here are the witnesses who will testify today:

  • Bill Stepien, Trump’s 2020 campaign manager, who was by his side in the immediate aftermath of the election. He’s testifying under subpoena, so it’s unclear how “friendly” of a witness he will be. Although his roots are in establishment GOP circles, Stepien has remained in Trump’s orbit since the election, advising several candidates endorsed by the ex-president — including Harriet Hageman, who is challenging January 6th committee vice chair Liz Cheney (R-WY).
  • Chris Stirewalt, the former Fox News political editor. Stirewalt played a key role at the network on Election Night 2020, when Fox provoked Trump’s ire by being first to call Arizona for Biden. Stirewalt was later fired from Fox after the election.
  • Ben Ginsberg, the veteran GOP election lawyer who has rebuked Trump’s claims of election fraud.
  • BJay Pak, who was appointed by Trump to be the U.S. attorney based in Atlanta, but resigned after the election amid pressure to investigate the results in Georgia
  • Al Schmidt, the former city commissioner of Philadelphia, a Republican who also butted heads with Trump in the 2020 election aftermath.
The members of the House January 6th committee at last week’s hearing. (Screengrab)

Do you notice a theme among those witnesses? They’re all Republicans (or, in the case of Stirewalt, a former employee of the GOP’s favorite news channel).

Today’s hearing is clearly designed to show GOP figures — possibly even including Trump’s own campaign manager — rejecting the former president’s claims of election fraud live on television.

You can watch the hearing on the three major broadcast networks — ABC, NBC, and CBS — which are all pre-empting their regular programming once again.

CNN, MSNBC, and (in a change from last week) Fox News will also broadcast the hearing as well. Or you can watch the livestream via C-SPAN here.

More news you should know

The average price of gas in the U.S. surged above $5 for the first time in the nation’s history this weekend, as inflation continues to haunt Democrats ahead of the November midterms.

Sarah Palin led the 48-candidate field in the first round of voting on Saturday for the special election to fill Alaska’s statewide House seat. The top four candidates, including Palin, will advance to the August 16 general election.

Russia is gaining momentum in its months-long war against Ukraine. The U.S. now says Moscow is likely to seize control of the Luhansk region within a few weeks, as Kyiv runs out of ammunition and enthusiasm while its rival uses deadlier weapons and gains an upper hand.

Democrats are wondering whether President Biden should seek re-election in 2024, the New York Times reported (and AOC seemed to confirm). Meanwhile, if he runs, former President Trump is unlikely to have the Republican field to himself, per the Washington Post.

The CDC ended its policy requiring travelers to test negative for Covid before entering the U.S. on Sunday, axing one of the last remaining pandemic-era mandates.

2008 GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin advanced in the Alaska House election this weekend. (Gage Skidmore)

What’s going on in government today

All times Eastern.

President Biden will start his day in Wilmington, Delaware, where he spent the weekend. He’ll leave Delaware (11:10 am), return to the White House (12:05 pm), and receive his daily intelligence briefing (12:30 pm).

Later in the day, Biden will sign H.R. 3525 into law (2 pm). The measure would create a commission to study the potential creation of a National Museum of Asian Pacific American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.

Vice President Harris will join Biden at the bill signing and deliver remarks (2 pm).

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre will hold her daily press briefing (3 pm).

The Senate will convene (3 pm) and resume consideration of the Honoring Our PACT Act, which would provide health care access and benefits to veterans who were exposed to toxic substances during their military services.

The chamber will hold a vote (5:30 pm) to advance the measure, which passed the House with bipartisan support in March.

The House will convene (12 pm) and later vote on five pieces of legislation under suspension of the rules:

  • H.R. 6270, the Advanced Aviation Infrastructure Modernization Act
  • S. 516, the Advanced Air Mobility Coordination and Leadership Act
  • H.R. 2020, the Post-Disaster Assistance Online Accountability Act
  • H.R. 7211, the Small State and Rural Rescue Act
  • S. 3580, the Ocean Shipping Reform Act

The House January 6th committee will hold its second hearing (9:45 am). Trump 2020 campaign manager Bill Stepien, former Fox News political editor Chris Stirewalt, Republican election lawyer Ben Ginsberg, former U.S. Attorney BJay Pak, and former Philadelphia city commissioner Al Schmidt will testify.

The Supreme Court will release orders (9:30 am), which are how the justices announce which cases they will or won’t hear next term, and opinions (10 am), which are how the justices outline their rulings on cases they heard this past term.

Plus: Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) will debate each other on the economy inside a full-scale replica of the Senate chamber (12 pm), the first in a series of debates aimed at bridging the partisan divide.

Links to watch for yourself: Biden bill signingWH press briefingSenate sessionHouse sessionJanuary 6th hearing


I have two corrections I want to make from last week’s newsletters.

On Thursday, I messed up the party breakdown for the House vote on the Protecting Our Kids Act, a package of gun control measures. Five Republicans voted for the bill, and two Democrats voted against it.

On Friday, I had a typo in a quote from Caroline Edwards, the Capitol Police officer who testified at last week’s January 6th hearing. The quote should have read: “There were officers on the ground: They were bleeding. They were throwing up. I saw friends with blood all over their faces. I was slipping in people’s blood... It was carnage. It was chaos.”

My apologies for the errors and sincere thanks to all the readers who pointed them out.

Before I go...

Here’s a non-political story I found fascinating (and more than a little chilling):

“The Google engineer who thinks the company’s AI has come to life,” via the Washington Post.

That’s it for today. If you enjoy Wake Up To Politics, it’s always appreciated if you donate to support the newsletter or buy some merch. Or if you tell your friends and family to sign up at wakeuptopolitics.com.

If you have any questions or feedback, feel free to email me: my inbox is always open.

Thanks for waking up to politics! Have a great day.

— Gabe