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Happy Wednesday morning.
We have some news on gun control talks.
→ A bipartisan group of senators attempting to reach a gun control deal will speak again today, sources familiar with the discussions told us. One group is led by Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and includes Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.).
These talks have largely focused on school safety, “red flag” laws and improvements to the nation’s mental health apparatuses. The red-flag proposal is essentially a program which would provide federal grant money to incentivize states to set up their own systems to temporarily remove guns form those who are a threat to themselves or others.
Sources involved in the negotiations say interest in reaching a compromise remains genuine on both sides, although there are serious obstacles to do so.
→ Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) is also holding parallel discussions with Murphy, a replay of what they did last summer during unsuccessful talks on expanding background checks on gun sales. Murphy is the central figure in all of these talks.
Cornyn, Murphy, Sinema and Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) held a Zoom discussion on Tuesday as well. Tillis has expressed openness to red flag laws. Aides to these four senators are going to craft some proposals for them to review in the coming days.
“Senators Murphy, Sinema, Tillis, and I had a very constructive conversation about the best response to the horrific events in Uvalde last week,” Cornyn said in a statement. “We’ve asked our staff to continue to work together to address some of the details that we hope to be able to discuss at some point soon.”
This group of four is complementary to the larger bipartisan talks. For example, the smaller group may flesh out some of the broad parameters of an agreement, and the larger group may come up with the language. Blumenthal and Graham have taken the lead on the red flag language.
We want to dig into Cornyn’s involvement here. The horrific Uvalde shooting took place in Cornyn’s home state, which along with his previous interactions with Murphy and his expertise on gun issues, thrust him into the center of these discussions.
Cornyn, though, has internal political dynamics he’ll have balance with the fallout back home from the Uvalde massacre.
Cornyn is a part of a Senate GOP group we’ve dubbed the “Three Johns”– Cornyn, Sen Minority Whip John Thune and Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming, the Republican Conference chair. Each has his eye on being the top Senate Republican when Minority Leader Mitch McConnell eventually retires. Which isn’t going to be for awhile.
Thune and Barrasso have been non-committal on any potential gun-control deal, and Cornyn won’t want to get to their left. Barrasso has taken a hard line on the issue, while Thune is up for reelection, complicating the situation for him.
Yet neither has had to deal with anything like the Uvalde massacre in their own state, both from a personal and political standpoint. Cornyn was scheduled to appear at an NRA event in Houston just days after the Uvalde shooting, but chose not to attend due to a scheduling conflict.
GOP Sen. Ted Cruz, Cornyn’s fellow Texan, also has rejected any discussion of new gun control laws. Cruz has said the “most effective” safety measure for schools is to have “armed law enforcement” on campus.
So Cornyn will only end up supporting a proposal that will get the backing of 20 to 25 Senate Republicans or more. Cornyn isn’t expected to be part of a deal just for the sake of a deal. We’re not sure there’s a proposal that will get that much Senate GOP support, but we’ll have to see.
We’d also expect any potential agreement to focus heavily on the mental health aspect of the gun violence equation, including some significant funding for federal programs or grants to states.
But this is a look at Cornyn’s leadership style. He’s indeed taking a risk in entering into gun-control negotiations. If a deal emerges, Cornyn will have to own it and sell it to his colleagues. If the talks fail, Cornyn will have been part of yet another round of gun control negotiations that fall flat, even in the wake of 19 children and two adults being murdered in a small town in his state.
Also: With House Democrats prepared to move a package of gun-control bills through the Judiciary Committee on Thursday, there’s still a lot of discussion inside the Democratic Caucus about that initiative
We broke the news on the House Democrats “Protecting Our Kids Act” on Tuesday. Judiciary will send the package to the floor for a vote next week when the House returns from the Memorial Day recess. A red flag bill offered by Rep. Lucy McBath (D-Ga.), combined with a proposal from Rep. Salud Carbajal (D-Calif.) encouraging states to set up these programs, will also get a vote.
There was a leadership call on Tuesday that included Judiciary Committee Chair Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), and Rep. Mike Thompson (D-Calif.), who chairs the Democrats’ Gun Violence Prevention Task Force.
Chairman Nadler, Leadership and I are working together to send the strongest bill with the most votes to the Senate. Our strategy is to save lives by reducing gun violence and we have a package that has the backing of our caucus and the American people to do just that.
One week away: We’re less than one week away from our first editorial event in June! Join us on Tuesday, June 7 at 9 a.m. ET for a conversation with Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) on the environmental impact of 5G in manufacturing. RSVP today!
– Jake Sherman, John Bresnahan and Heather Caygle
The Punch Up Profile
As part of The Punch Up, which launched last month, we’ll be featuring four trailblazers who are leading the charge for change when it comes to racial equity and sustainability.
We’re excited to share our first Punch Up Profile featuring Adjoa Asamoah. We sat down with Asamoah to learn about her groundbreaking career as a champion for racial equity.
Check out the full profile.
Biden’s house of blame
Two stories in the last two days include reporting that suggests President Joe Biden is increasingly angry at those around him for mismanaging critical issues.
Here’s NBC’s Carol E. Lee, Peter Nicholas, Kristen Welker and Courtney Kube in a story published Tuesday morning.
Faced with a worsening political predicament, President Joe Biden is pressing aides for a more compelling message and a sharper strategy while bristling at how they’ve tried to stifle the plain-speaking persona that has long been one of his most potent assets. …
Biden is annoyed that he wasn’t alerted sooner about the baby formula shortage and that he got his first briefing in the past month, even though the crisis had long been in the making. (The White House didn’t specify when Biden got his first briefing on the formula shortage.) His nominee to head the Food and Drug Administration, Dr. Robert Califf, told Congress last week that the agency was sluggish and that it had made “suboptimal” decisions as parents hunted for formula on empty store shelves. …
Beyond policy, Biden is unhappy about a pattern that has developed inside the West Wing. He makes a clear and succinct statement — only to have aides rush to explain that he actually meant something else. The so-called clean-up campaign, he has told advisers, undermines him and smothers the authenticity that fueled his rise. Worse, it feeds a Republican talking point that he’s not fully in command.
And here’s Tyler Pager and Jeff Stein this morning on the front page of the Washington Post:
The flurry of activity comes after Biden has privately grumbled to top White House officials over the administration’s handling of inflation, expressing frustration over the past several months that aides were not doing enough to confront the problem directly, two people familiar with the president’s comments said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to describe private conversations.
The president runs the White House, of course, so everything is his fault on some level. But this pair of stories tells us two things. First: Senior Biden aides are turning on each other. These stories don’t just happen randomly. The stresses of governing, combined with concerns about how the upcoming midterms will come out for Democrats – and who will face the blame for that – are driving this. Every White House leaks some; the question is how much and why. Two: There is palpable frustration in the West Wing when it comes to the infant formula crisis and inflation. Inflation is a much more intractable problem than the formula shortage. It’s being felt globally, not just in the United States, despite GOP claims that Biden is responsible for soaring prices. But Democratic lawmakers and senior administration officials have been caught off guard by the scale of the formula crisis, which exploded into national view quickly. It gave Republicans a perfect cudgel to hit Biden with – a failure in competence.
Speaking of blame, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen took some of her own Tuesday when she told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that she was wrong in saying inflation would be transitory. Yellen, though, shifted some responsibility onto the Federal Reserve, a post she once held. Here’s Yellen:
“Well, look, I think I was wrong then about the path that inflation would take. As I mentioned, there have been unanticipated and large shocks to the economy that have boosted energy and food prices and supply bottlenecks that have affected our economy badly that I didn’t — at the time didn’t fully understand. But we recognize that now. The Federal Reserve is taking the steps that it needs to take. It’s up to them to decide what to do. And, for our part, President Biden is focused on supplementing what the Fed does with actions we can take to lower the cost that Americans face for important expenditures they have in their budgets. Prescription drugs is one example, health care costs another example, utility bills. If Congress is willing to pass some of the proposals to boost the use of non-renewables, I think that can serve to bring down an important cost that households face. He realizes, we all realize what an important and huge burden inflation is placing on American households.”
– Jake Sherman and John Bresnahan
→ Leadership watch: House Democratic Caucus Chair Hakeem Jeffries was in Chicago on Tuesday to campaign for Rep. Danny Davis (D-Ill.). Davis is facing a Justice Democrats-backed primary challenger — Kina Collins — in Illinois’ June 28 primary. On Twitter, Jeffries called Davis “a strongly progressive member of @TheBlackCaucus who consistently delivers #ForThePeople.”
→ Former Rep. Max Rose (D-N.Y.) affirmed he is still running in New York’s 11th District, despite redistricting changes that left the Staten Island seat solidly Republican. Rose is seeking a rematch against Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R-N.Y.) after the Republican unseated him in 2020.
Rose took a shot at DCCC Chair Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.) in his statement:
“What kind of message does it send when Democrats run away to different districts because they think having to earn the votes of Republicans and Independents means their political career is over?
“If we can only win in seats where Joe Biden won by more than ten points then we will never build the coalition we need to end gun violence, protect a woman’s right to choose, and make this country affordable.”
→ Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-N.Y.), a longshot candidate for governor of New York, is running an ad promising to crack down on crime and cut taxes. Yes, a Democrat is running an ad with that message. In the spot airing in the New York media market, Suozzi knocks Gov. Kathy Hochul for getting the NRA’s endorsement when she was in Congress. Hochul represented a conservative district for just over 18 months in 2011-12.
→ Here’s a new spot from Luke Holland, Sen. Jim Inhofe’s (R-Okla.) chief of staff who is running for the Senate with his boss’s backing. Legendary GOP adman Fred Davis cut the spot, which is running statewide.
→ This is an interesting spot. The NRSC is running an ad against Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) which says: “Raphael Warnock. His personal story? Inspirational. His story as a senator is the problem.” The spot then lists Warnock’s policy positions. It is rare you hear a party committee concede that an opponent has an inspirational story. The spot is running in Atlanta, Charlotte and Nashville.
— Max Cohen and Jake Sherman
9:30 a.m.: President Joe Biden will get his daily intelligence briefing.
11 a.m.: Biden will participate in the Coast Guard’s change of command ceremony.
2:30 p.m.: Biden will meet virtually with infant formula manufacturers. Participants include Ron Belldegrun, CEO and co-founder of ByHeart; Kristy Carr, CEO and founder, Bubs Australia; Robert Cleveland, senior vice president for North America and Europe Nutrition for Reckitt; Murray Kessler, CEO of Perrigo Company; and Tarun Malkani, CEO of Gerber.
3:30 p.m.: Karine Jean-Pierre will brief.
→ President Joe Biden: “What America Will and Will Not Do in Ukraine”
→ “Supreme Court Blocks Texas Law Regulating Social Media Platforms,” by Adam Liptak
→ “In Alaska, the Race to Succeed Don Young Is Raucous and Crowded,” by Emily Cochrane in Anchorage
→ “Alito delays counting of undated ballots in Pennsylvania,” by Robert Barnes and Colby Itkowitz
→ “Russian Oil Producers Stay One Step Ahead of Sanctions,” by Anna Hirtenstein and Benoit Faucon
→ “Hinckley nears full freedom 41 years after shooting Reagan,” by Jessica Gresko
→ “Dems sweat GOP surge in South Texas special election,” by Ally Mutnick
Crucial Capitol Hill news AM, Midday, and PM—5 times a week
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