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Wake Up To Politics - May 25, 2022

Wake Up To Politics: 19 children killed
Wake Up To Politics - May 25, 2022

by Gabe Fleisher

Good morning! It’s Wednesday, May 25, 2022. Election Day 2022 is 167 days away. Election Day 2024 is 895 days away.

America wrestles with yet another school shooting

On Tuesday, an 18-year-old gunman walked into Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas — about 80 miles west of San Antonio — and killed 19 students and two teachers.

Several other students were also injured. Although only a handful of the victims’ identities have been released, the school serves only 2nd through 4th graders — meaning the students who were killed could have been no more than 10 years old.

In Uvalde, parents waited late into the night at a local civic center to hear from authorities whether their children were among the murdered. Some of the parents had to give DNA samples to help identify the victims.

“The agonized screams of family members are audible from the parking lot,” local reporter Niki Griswold wrote on Twitter, as the parents were being informed.

Families gather at a Uvalde civic center to wait for news about their loved ones. (Niki Griswold / Twitter)

According to CNN, the gunman shot his grandmother before going on to the elementary school. An official from the Texas Department of Public Safety said he crashed his car near the school, and was then “engaged by law enforcement” — but still managed to make it inside, and enter several classrooms, before being killed himself.

The gunman was reportedly armed with body armor and a rifle; according to a state senator who was briefed by law enforcement, the shooter bought two rifles on his 18th birthday. Texas has some of the most lenient gun laws in the country.

According to Gun Violence Archive, this was the deadliest of the 213th mass shootings to take place so far in 2022. The second-most deadly was less than two weeks ago, at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York.

The Uvalde attack was the 27th school shooting in the U.S. this year, according to Education Week.

Will Washington do anything?

In an eerily familiar pattern, the spotlight now swings back to Washington, where it is yet to be seen whether the massacre will jolt lawmakers to action.

Of course, there have been many other shootings in recent years — spanning decades, states, and settings (schools, churches, movie theaters, etc.) — that have led to little more than flowery words from politicians.

Perhaps most notably, 10 years ago, 26 people were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut — the only K-12 school shooting in U.S. history with more victims than the one in Uvalde.

Then, Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Pat Toomey (R-PA) teamed up to author a bipartisan bill to expand background checks for gun sales. The measure, which needed 60 votes to overcome a filibuster, failed 54-46.

Manchin told reporters Tuesday that he would do “anything I can” to renew the push for gun control legislation, although he ruled out eliminating the filibuster.

President Biden speaks about the shooting in Uvalde on Tuesday. (White House screengrab)

In one of his most emotional speeches to date, President Biden also called for action.

“Why are we willing to live with this carnage?” he asked. “Why do we keep letting this happen?  Where in God’s name is our backbone to have the courage to deal with it and stand up to the [gun] lobbies?

Speaking from personal experience, as a father who has lost two children, Biden added: “To lose a child is like having a piece of your soul ripped away. There’s a hollowness in your chest, and you feel like you’re being sucked into it and never going to be able to get out. It’s suffocating. And it’s never quite the same.”

On the Senate floor, a similarly anguished speech was delivered by Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT), who has been one of Washington’s leading gun control advocates since the Newtown shooting took place in his home state.

“What are we doing? Why are you here if not to solve a problem as existential as this?” Murphy asked his colleagues. “I'm here on this floor to beg, to literally get down on my hands and knees and beg my colleagues: Find a path forward here. Work with us to find a way to pass laws that make this less likely.”

Late Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) began the process to hold floor votes on two House-passed gun control bills: H.R. 8, the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2021, and H.R. 1446, the Enhanced Background Checks Act.

The former would institute background checks for all firearm sales or transfers in the country (including those by unlicensed and private sellers, which do not currently require them).

The latter would expand the time given to the FBI for firearm background checks from three days to 10 days, closing the so-called “Charleston loophole,” which allows gun purchases to move forward after those three days elapse, even if the background check is not complete.

Sen. Chris Murphy delivered an emotional speech on the Senate floor calling for action on gun control. (Senate screengrab)

Neither measure currently has 10 Republican supporters, the number needed to overcome a filibuster. However, Murphy told reporters that he had reached out to Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), with whom he had previously worked to hatch a gun control deal, about possibly restarting negotiations.

Both Cornyn and the other senator representing Uvalde, Ted Cruz (R-TX), issued statements Tuesday decrying the attack and others like it.

“We’ve seen too many of these shootings,” Cruz said.

“No parent, child, or teacher should ever have to wonder whether it’s safe to go to school,” Cornyn added.

But neither senator offered legislation to prevent future shootings from taking place. Both were slated to speak at a National Rifle Association (NRA) convention in Texas this weekend, although Cornyn has since pulled out.

Primary results to know

As previewed in Tuesday’s newsletter, primary elections were hold in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Texas, and Minnesota yesterday.

Here are the results you should know from yesterday’s races:

Trump’s revenge tour failed spectacularly. Two of former President Trump’s most prominent Republican targets of this election cycle easily won their primaries on Tuesday, fending off Trump-backed challenges. Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp won renomination with 73.7% of the vote, compared to 21.8% for his challenger, former Sen. David Perdue. (Kemp will face his 2018 Democratic rival Stacey Abrams, who was unopposed in her primary, in November.)

Meanwhile, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger took 52.3% of the vote in his primary race, compared to 33.4% for Rep. Jody Hice. Both Kemp and Raffensperger needed notch at least 50% to avoid being dragged into a runoff with their opponents. Both sparked Trump’s enmity after certifying President Biden’s win in Georgia in 2020; their victories offered a sign that Republican voters do not share the ex-president’s singular focus on the last election.

There were other Trump-endorsed candidates who fared better. Outside of Georgia, in places where elections hinged on issues other than the 2020 election, Trump did score some wins. In Texas, for example, state Attorney General Ken Paxton won renomination with his endorsement. Paxton defeated Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush, 67.9%-32.1%. The result was a crushing rejection for the Bush dynasty, a once-powerful Republican family whose influence has dimmed in the Trump-era GOP.

Gov. Brian Kemp at his victory party after defeating a Trump-backed primary challenger. (Kemp campaign)

In Arkansas, one of Trump’s former White House press secretaries, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, coasted to the gubernatorial nomination with his backing. Sanders, whose father also served as Arkansas governor, will be the state’s first female chief executive if elected in November.

A moderate House Democrat appears favored to hang on. For the second straight cycle, progressive Democrats — including Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) — mobilized to unseat Texas Rep. Henry Cuellar, one of the more centrist Democrats in Washington. Amid reporting that Roe v. Wade could soon be overturned, campaigning against him accelerated: Cuellar is the lone House Democrat remaining to oppose abortion rights.

The race remains too close to call, but Cuellar appears favored to edge out his progressive challenger, immigration attorney Jessica Cisneros. With more than 95% of precincts reporting, Cuellar currently has a 50.2%-49.8% lead over Cisneros — an advantage of less than 200 votes.

A few more results:

  • Alabama’s Republican Senate primary will go to a runoff between former Senate aide Katie Britt and Rep. Mo Brooks, who had Trump’s endorsement before he rescinded it.
  • Georgia Rep. Lucy McBath, a gun control activist who lost her son in a shooting, defeated her fellow Democratic Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux in a member-on-member primary.
  • Also in Georgia, Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock and former football star Herschel Walker easily won their nominations, setting up one of the highest-stakes Senate races of the year.

Ask Gabe

Q: I’ve heard a couple of times in passing the U.S. has a stockpile of baby formula they planned on giving to undocumented immigrants. Have you heard anything about this? Is it true? — Christine R.

A: Reports about the U.S. government keeping baby formula for undocumented immigrants amid the national shortage have been floating around conservative media and been promoted by several Republican politicians.

Rep. Kat Cammack (R-TX), for example, posted this on Twitter:

Along the same vein, Rep. Troy Nehls (R-TX) tweeted this: “Baby formula should go to Americans before illegals.”

The answer to Christine’s question is “yes”: it’s true, as Cammack’s photo shows, that the government is supplying baby formula to undocumented immigrant infants in its custody.

But more context is required. The government is doing that because that’s what the government is required to do. This stems from what’s known as the Flores settlement, a 1997 consent decree that came out of a 1993 Supreme Court case, Reno v. Flores.

That case concerned U.S. treatment of unaccompanied minors apprehended attempting to cross the border, but the resulting settlement has since been broadened to apply to any immigrant children detained at U.S. border facilities.

Under the terms of the Flores settlement, the government must provide adequate care for those children. The settlement says they must be housed in facilities that are “safe and sanitary” — and the children must be provided access to “drinking water and food as appropriate.”

For the youngest of those children in the government’s custody, that means baby formula. Although some GOP politicians have attempted to pin it on the Biden administration that those immigrant infants are being given baby formula, it is out of the administration’s hands: The law requires those babies to be fed while the U.S. has them in its custody.

What’s going on in Washington today

President Biden will receive his daily intelligence briefing in the morning. Later, he’ll deliver remarks and sign an executive order on police reform, marking the 2nd anniversary of George Floyd’s death in police custody.

Vice President Harris will also deliver remarks at the executive order signing.

First Lady Biden and Surgeon General Vivek Murthy will go to Dulles Airport to greet the arrival of the second shipment of baby formula brought to the U.S. thorough “Operation Fly Formula.”

The Senate will vote on the confirmation of Evelyn Padin to be a U.S. district judge in New Jersey, Charlotte Sweeney to be a U.S. district judge in Colorado, and Sandra Thompson to be director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA)

  • The chamber will also vote to advance the nomination of Henry Frey to be an assistant administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for research and development.

The House is out until June 7.

Congressional committees will hear testimony from the FDA commissioner and baby formula executives (House Energy and Commerce); FBI director Chris Wray (Senate Appropriations); and Biden’s nominee to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, who will be a key figure in the coming gun control push (Senate Judiciary).

The Supreme Court has nothing on the agenda for the day.

Links to watch for yourself (with start times, all ET): Senate session (10 am) • ATF nominee hearing (10 am) • Baby formula hearing (11 am) • FLOTUS greets baby formula (1:45 pm) • Wray hearing (2 pm) • Biden on police reform (4 pm)

Before I go...

I want to end with something sweeter, especially on a day of such incredible sadness for America’s students: Krispy Kreme is giving away a free dozen donuts to any graduating high school or college seniors who go to one of its stores today.

All you have to do is show up wearing Class of 2022 swag: anything from a t-shirt to your cap and gown.

Congratulations to everyone who graduated this year. Especially in moments like this, it’s important to highlight those reasons for celebration.

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