by Gabe Fleisher
Good morning! It’s Thursday, May 26, 2022. Election Day 2022 is 166 days away. Election Day 2024 is 894 days away.
Analysis: Amid calls for action on guns, lawmakers are headed home
The average American works 260 days a year and makes about $53,000.
Members of the U.S. Senate, on the other hand, work 165 days a year and make $174,000.
Case in point: Congress’ upper chamber is set to leave this afternoon for their Memorial Day recess. (Yes, on Capitol Hill, Memorial Day is a two-week affair.)
Which means that for the next two weeks — as a war in Europe rages, Covid cases mount, and 19 sets of parents in Uvalde, Texas bury their children — the Senate will be gone fishin’.
Before skipping town, Senate leaders promised that action on gun control would come soon. But only after recess, of course.
On Tuesday night, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) laid the groundwork for the Senate to begin debate on two pieces of legislation: H.R. 8, which would expand background checks for firearms, and H.R. 1446, which would give the FBI more time to conduct those checks.
But, he said, that debate will have to wait until June 6, when the chamber returns to Washington.
“I repeat, though, we are going to vote on gun legislation,” he assured the nation on Wednesday. (Schumer also promised to hold votes on the same bills in 2021, but never did.)
Similarly, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) announced on Wednesday that the House will vote on a “red flag” bill, which would allow family members or law enforcement to petition federal courts to block someone from purchasing a firearm if there is reason to believe they are dangerous.
And Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin (D-IL) said his panel would be holding hearings on gun violence soon.
Both the House vote and the Senate hearings, those lawmakers said, will take place... after recess. (The House has been gone since May 19 and will return June 7.)
Of course, now or on June 6, the gun control bills currently before them are likely to fail the Senate. And that’s not because of Democratic delays, but due to Republican opposition.
“You can’t legislate away evil,” Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) tweeted Wednesday, representing the views of many of her colleagues.
“We can’t stop people from doing bad things,” state Attorney General Ken Paxton (R-TX) said.
The Senate will vote before leaving today on the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act, which would create offices within the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice, and the FBI to monitor, investigate, and prosecute domestic terrorists.
Senate Minority Whip John Thune (R-SD) told CNN that it is “unlikely” the measure will garner the 10 Republican votes it will need to advance, arguing that those agencies “already have authority to do” what the bill would implement.
Schumer said he did not want to send the gun control bills to a similar fate until bipartisan negotiations were given a chance to try.
Some lawmakers indicated there might be an opening for compromise: Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), for example, expressed openness Wednesday towards a “red flag” bill.
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) — the leading gun control advocate on the Democratic side — has made overtures to Sens. Collins, Pat Toomey (R-PA), and John Cornyn (R-TX).
And Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) reportedly led his caucus in a discussion on gun policies during their lunch on Wednesday, talking through various proposals.
Schumer, though, called the prospects of a bipartisan deal “slim,” noting: “We’ve been burnt so many times before.”
But timing is everything in Washington, and it’s unlikely the two-week break will help.
That’s two weeks in which lawmakers won’t be able to meet face-to-face and hash out a compromise. Two weeks for opponents of gun control to circle the wagons, as proponents lose steam and attention for their cause.
Two weeks in which Uvalde could very well join the familiar list of cities where mass shootings horrified the country but led to little action.
Some Democrats say the decision to leave for recess just after the shooting betrays a lack of urgency among party leaders that doesn’t meet the moment.
That’s why Texas gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke touched a nerve with many in the party when he interrupted Gov. Greg Abbott (R-TX) at a press conference on Wednesday.
It’s the same reason why the video of Michigan state Rep. Mallory McMorrow went viral last month — and why President Biden’s approval ratings is dropping among Democrats.
As the unresolved issues before them continue to pile up, the limitations of Democrats’ slim majorities become even more apparent, frustrating the party’s base and leading to calls for its leaders to “go on offense” like O’Rourke and McMorrow.
“We should come back now,” Rep. Jake Auchincloss (D-MA) tweeted Wednesday, calling for an end to Congress’ prolonged break.
Arne Duncan, who served as Education Secretary during the Obama administration, put it blunter: “How about Congress won’t take a recess until school children are safe to go to recess?”
More news you should know
— Former President Donald Trump reacted approvingly when told that the Capitol rioters were calling for the hanging of his vice president, Mike Pence, the January 6 committee has learned.
- According to the New York Times, a former aide testified to the panel that former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows told colleagues that day that Trump said “something to the effect of, maybe Mr. Pence should be hanged” and complained when Pence was brought to safety.
- Related: The Times also reported that the Justice Department is intensifying its criminal probe of Rudy Giuliani and other Trump lawyers who worked to put forward alternate slates of pro-Trump electors in states Biden won in 2020.
— Speaking of Trump, the former president is reportedly worrying about his standing in a 2024 GOP presidential primary after a string of failed endorsements in midterm primary contests, according to the Washington Post.
- Per a new CNN report, if he does run, Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) is being eyed as a possible running mate.
- Also, an update on one of those primary contests: The Pennsylvania secretary of state ordered a recount Wednesday in the state’s GOP Senate primary. Trump’s candidate, Dr. Mehmet Oz, currently has an 899-vote edge over his opponent.
— Finally, an important story I wanted to flag today: A consortium of news organizations published a tranche of documents and photographs that provide a wrenching glimpse into China’s mass internment camps in the Xinjiang region, where Uyghur Muslims and other minority groups are being held.
- Here is the story from the Investigative Consortium of Investigative Journalists, “The faces from China’s Uyghur detention camps.”
What’s going on in Washington today
All times Eastern
President Biden has no other events on his schedule besides receiving his daily intelligence briefing (1:45 pm).
Vice President Harris will join Biden for his intel briefing.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre will hold her daily press briefing (3 pm).
The Senate will hold a vote on advancing H.R. 350, the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act. The chamber will also vote on passage of S.J.Res. 46, a GOP resolution which would overturn a Biden administration regulation governing the asylum process.
- Plus, the Senate will vote to confirm Marcia Bernicat as Director General of the U.S. Foreign Service.The House is out until June 7.
The Supreme Court will meet for its weekly conference to discuss pending petitions and cases.
Links to watch for yourself: WH briefing • Senate session
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