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Happy Wednesday morning.
For this moment – this week, perhaps the rest of this month – the Senate is operating in an unusual political space.
In the long struggle over guns and gun control, there’s finally a window open for a compromise – albeit a small window with room for only a narrow accord.
Why? Because for the first time in a decade, the political incentive structure on guns has shifted.
Democrats are working within the confines of a razor-thin majority in Washington, dropping their calls for big policy changes in favor of small progress.
And some Republicans have accepted that opposing any and all changes to gun laws is both politically and substantively unacceptable.
It has led to an almost head-snapping sense in the Capitol that President Joe Biden may actually get a package of gun-control laws to sign in the next several months, ahead of the midterm elections.
For the last generation, as America has suffered a deadly torrent of gun violence, Democrats and gun-control advocates have insisted the only cure was for Congress to take big steps to keep everyone safe. Reinstate the assault weapons ban. Require universal background checks and outlaw gun shows. Ban high-capacity ammunition clips, bump stocks and “ghost guns.” This, Democrats claimed, was the way to cut gun violence. Half measures were unwelcome.
Through it all, Republicans and gun-rights groups have made the case that guns aren’t the problem, rather gun-control laws are. “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” the NRA’s director claimed a decade ago after a gunman murdered 20 school children. And the right has been winning this political struggle.
The assault weapons ban expired. “Open carry” and “constitutional carry” – the ability for gun owners to carry around a concealed weapon without a special permit — are now the law in more than half of states. Sales of AR-15s and other semi-automatic rifles soared. Overall, more than 40 million guns were sold in the United States during 2020 and 2021. According to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, “from 2010 to 2020, the number of guns produced every year doubled.”
Republicans have held up the Second Amendment as a shield even as dead bodies piled up from San Bernardino, Calif., to Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. GOP lawmakers and gun rights groups say the country isn’t enforcing existing gun laws, so new ones are unnecessary. Legislating in the wake of tragedy, they frequently add, is unwise.
Yet after nightmarish massacres in Uvalde, Texas, and Buffalo, N.Y., a bipartisan group of senators have set aside these long-held orthodoxies. At least for the time being, both sides are in a race to look reasonable.
Senate Democrats, led by Sen. Chris Murphy (Conn.), are willing to take a half step in the name of progress. And Republicans, led by Sens. John Cornyn (Texas), Thom Tillis (N.C) and Susan Collins (Maine), are at the table in search of a deal. Even Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is open to an agreement.
On Tuesday, McConnell declared he wanted to find a solution that “directly relates to the problem that brought this issue to the fore one more time.” Our friends Manu Raju of CNN and Marianne LeVine and Burgess Everett of Politico reported Tuesday that McConnell “has personally expressed openness” to raising the age limit for buying semi-automatic assault rifles from 18 to 21. A majority of Senate Republicans would object, so this won’t go anywhere.
The provisions under serious consideration right now include: incentivizing states to create red flag laws, expanding background checks to include consideration of juvenile records, bolstering the nation’s mental health network and strengthening the licensing system for “hobbyists” who sell firearms or component parts to guns.
Both sides have strong political incentives underpinning their current stances.
Democrats are saddled with an unpopular president and a legislative agenda that’s been stalled for months. They have the opportunity to make headway on an urgent issue in the 50-50 Senate.
Republicans know some of their standard lines on guns sound hollow under the current circumstances. An 11-year-old who “smeared herself with her murdered friend’s blood to play dead and stay alive during last month’s mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde” will be testifying before a House panel today.
House members will then vote on a broad gun-control package that’s likely to get no GOP support — and won’t go anywhere in a 50-50 Senate. But the House will have done something.
Of course, there’s legitimate political concern over what a compromise proposal means for Senate Democrats. They are letting a gun-control bill pass without the major gun-control positions they’ve long sought. In the mind of some Democrats, they’d be giving Republicans political cover for doing the absolute minimum to address a national crisis.
The key here is this: For the moment, that’s just fine with most Senate Democrats. Something is better than nothing. Anything.
→ Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio):
“I just want to get something done. I just think it’s so important to actually do something. I mean, not anything anything, but something of substance. And there’s five or six things we can do. And I am sure we won’t do all five or six, but we’ll do two or three that are substantive. I’m good with that.”
→ Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.):
“You have to get above the threshold of meaninglessness. But once you clear that, progress is progress. Would I like more progress? Sure. But should I take some? Yes. Most definitely. Particularly because the package, as the general outline shows right now, has things that would be modestly helpful, coupled with much stronger funding on mental health, which we’ve needed for a very long time for a whole lot of reasons.
“But no one should walk away from this pretending that the Republicans have confronted gun violence head on. It is clear they are still trying every tap dance known to man to avoid addressing the role that guns play in gun violence.”
→ Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.):
“I understand that Sen. Murphy is doing the best that he can. But it is really a sad state of affairs that we don’t have 60 votes to pass the kind of legislation that the American people overwhelmingly want.
“We are witnessing a horrific moment in American history with so many tragedies that American people want to stop. I think what Sen. Murphy is trying to do is the best he can. But I think everyone will agree that it goes nowhere far enough.”
→ Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.):
“It is not acceptable for us to have a bunch of little kids murdered in their classrooms, and as a nation, we are unable to act. So I think it’s important to have these conversations and come up with something that will actually make a difference. And there are things that can be – a number of things that can be done – that will make a difference.”
→ Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.):
“I’ve been here 12 years. Ten years ago after Sandy Hook, a group of us worked really hard to try and get universal background checks. We didn’t. In 10 years, we’ve only passed small, marginal, incremental pieces of legislation.
“The community of advocates for stronger gun safety have made progress at the state level, but have made very little progress federally. What I’m hearing from gun safety advocates from Delaware is any progress is important.”
→ Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii):
“I think there are some of them [Republicans] who genuinely believe that it is time for us to act, and not just political cover for a number of them. It may be so.
“It certainly wouldn’t be the kind of changes in gun safety laws that I would like. But I am willing to support whatever Chris Murphy finds acceptable. I think there is a growing recognition, with a certain sense of urgency, that we need to adopt some kind of gun safety legislation.”
Of course, there’s a theory bouncing around in Democratic circles that if Republicans pass gun control once, they’d be willing to do it again at some point. We find that to be unlikely. Most Democrats know that. But they think that small steps are better than no steps at all.
Also happening today: The House Oversight and Reform Committee will hold what’s certain to be a wrenching hearing on gun violence. Witnesses include Zeneta Everhart, whose son survived the Buffalo massacre; Roy Guerrero, a pediatrician from Uvalde, Texas; Miah Cerrillo, a fourth grader who survived the massacre in Uvalde; and Felix and Kimberly Rubio, the parents of Lexi Rubio, who died in Uvalde. The Rubios will be appearing remotely, while the rest of the witnesses will be testifying in person.
Oversight Chair Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) will open the hearing with this:
“Our witnesses today have endured pain and loss. Yet they are displaying incredible courage by coming here to ask us to do our jobs. Let us hear their voices. Let us honor their courage. And let us find the same courage to pass commonsense laws to protect our children.”
Also happening today: The New Dem Coalition will hear from Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today at their weekly lunch.
– Jake Sherman, Heather Caygle and John Bresnahan
PRESENTED BY GOOGLE
Google is helping build a safer open source software ecosystem to strengthen cybersecurity
At the Open Source Security Foundation (OSSF) Summit, Google announced the Open Source Maintenance Crew to work on improving the security of critical open source projects to help protect business, governments, and users.
This staff of Google engineers will work closely with partners to help improve the security of critical open source projects.
What you need to know about last night’s primary results
Here are our top takeaways from Tuesday’s primary elections across seven states.
→ Former state assemblymember Christy Smith beat out fellow Democrat Quaye Quartey to advance to the general election against Rep. Mike Garcia (R-Calif.) in California’s 27th District. National Democratic groups including the Congressional Black Caucus PAC and the New Dem Action Fund had backed Quartey in hopes of avoiding Smith’s third straight matchup against Garcia.
The seat Garcia is seeking to hold onto moved to Biden +12 following redistricting.
→ Rep. Young Kim (R-Calif.) advanced to the general election, overcoming an upset bid from right-wing challenger Greg Raths. The Congressional Leadership Fund had spent on TV ads backing Kim in recent weeks. Kim will face Democrat Asif Mahmood in California’s 40th District general election. The seat is a Biden +2 district and is seen as likely to remain in GOP hands.
→ Lanhee Chen, a former adviser to Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) and close ally of Paul Ryan, came in first place in the jungle primary for state comptroller. Republicans haven’t won a statewide election in California since 2006.
→ Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.) is heading to a runoff against billionaire developer Rick Caruso to become the next mayor of Los Angeles.
→ Progressive San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin was recalled. 60% of San Francisco voters agreed that he should be recalled.
→ Tom Kean Jr., the former New Jersey state Senate minority leader, won the Republican primary in New Jersey’s 7th District and will take on endangered Frontliner Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-N.J.). Republicans are targeting Malinowski’s seat as one of their top pickup opportunities this November.
→ Rob Menendez Jr., the son of Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), won the Democratic primary in the race to succeed retiring Rep. Albio Sires (D-N.J.). The elder Menendez once held this House seat. So a new Democratic family dynasty is in the making.
→ Retired Navy Vice Admiral Michael Franken easily defeated former Rep. Abby Finkenauer (D-Iowa) in the Democratic Senate primary in one of the biggest surprises of the night. Franken won 55% to 40%. Franken will take on Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) in the general election. It’s a chastening loss for Finkenauer, a one-term House member once seen as a rising Democratic star.
→ Republican state Sen. Zach Nunn advanced to the general election to take on vulnerable Democratic Rep. Cindy Axne in what will be a heavily watched Republican flip opportunity.
There were a number of close calls for Republican incumbents in Mississippi’s House primaries.
→ In Mississippi’s 4th District, Rep. Steven Palazzo (R-Miss.) was forced into a June 28 runoff against local sheriff Mike Ezell. Palazzo led Ezell but failed to clear 50% of the vote. A 2021 Office of Congressional Ethics investigation found “substantial evidence” that Palazzo misspent campaign funds.
→ In Mississippi’s 3rd District, Rep. Mike Guest (R-Miss.) was also forced into a runoff against Michael Cassidy. Guest voted for the Jan. 6 commission.
→ Rep. Dusty Johnson (R-S.D.) beat back a primary challenge on the right from state Rep. Taffy Howard. Johnson was attacked on the state’s airwaves for supporting an independent commission to investigate the Jan. 6 insurrection. Johnson won with 59% of the vote.
→ Despite drawing former President Donald Trump’s wrath in 2021, Senate Minority Whip John Thune easily won the Senate GOP primary with 72% of the vote. Thune didn’t face a serious challenger and is expected to coast to reelection in heavily red South Dakota this November.
— Max Cohen
PUNCHBOWL NEWS EVENTS
What Rep. Debbie Dingell told us
Catch up on our conversation with Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) on 5G’s climate impact, gun control negotiations and much more.
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The Open Source Maintenance Crew secures open source software to help prevent cyberattacks and protect businesses, governments and users.
STANTON PARK BLOCK PARTY!
Last night, we hosted a Stanton Park Block Party at the Punchbowl News townhouse with our neighbors on Capitol Hill: Sazerac and S-3 Group. Thank you so much to everyone who joined us for this fun event!
Raising a glass: Danielle Burr of McKinsey & Company, Brandy Jackson of American Investment Council, Dontai Smalls of UPS, Caleb Williamson of The App Association, David O’Brien of National Association of Manufacturers, Steve Lombardo of Koch Industries, Elizabeth Wise and Laura Pinsky of Sazerac, and John Scofield, Mike Ference, Hastie Afkhami and Jennifer Holmes of S-3 Group.
→ Alabama Senate GOP candidate Katie Britt is holding a heavyweight fundraiser tonight in Washington featuring a “Who’s Who” of the Senate GOP conference and D.C. Republican circles. Click on the image below to check out the 12 senators — featuring some leadership heavyweights — helping Britt raise money ahead of her June 21 primary runoff against Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.).
— Max Cohen
MORE FROM PUNCHBOWL NEWS
Punchbowl News is more than just a newsletter. We’re bringing our community events, custom content and more. Check out everything we’re up to today!
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Learn how Google’s Open Source Maintenance Crew is boosting cybersecurity.
All times eastern
10:15 a.m.: House Democratic Caucus Chair Hakeem Jeffries, Vice Chair Pete Aguilar, Reps. Mike Thompson (Calif.) and Lucy McBath (Ga.) will hold a news conference after the closed Democratic Caucus meeting.
10:45 a.m.: House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik, Reps. Richard Hudson (N.C.), Jim Banks (Ind.) and Jim Jordan (Ohio) will hold a news conference after their closed party meeting.
11 a.m.: House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer will hold his weekly pen and pad. … Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), McBath and Thompson will hold a rally with gun safety advocates.
11:15 a.m.: President Joe Biden will leave the White House for Andrews, where he will fly to Los Angeles. Karine Jean-Pierre and Jake Sullivan will brief en route to LAX.
1 p.m.: Pelosi, Hoyer and several House Democrats will speak at the House Triangle on a resolution condemning the “Great Replacement Theory.”
1:30 p.m.: Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) will join Reps. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) and Ken Buck (R-Colo.) at a press conference for their Big Tech bill.
4:30 p.m.: Biden will land in L.A.
5:40 p.m.: Biden will tape an appearance on “Jimmy Kimmel Live.”
7 p.m.: Biden will greet heads of state at the Summit of the Americas.
8:15 p.m.: Biden will speak at the inaugural ceremony for the summit.
→”The Jan. 6 Inquiry’s Only Endangered Democrat Prepares Herself for a Fight,” by Jonathan Weisman in Virginia Beach
→ “How Jared Kushner Washed His Hands of Donald Trump Before Jan. 6,” by Peter Baker
→ “It’s a Malinowski-Kean rematch in a crucial New Jersey swing district,” by Tracey Tully
→ “S.F. DA recalled, L.A.’s Caruso advances as Democrats tested on crime,” by Hannah Knowles
→ “Ukraine Plays Down Grains Corridor Hope, Warns of ‘Catastrophe,’” by Selcan Hacaoglu
→ “Janet Yellen and World Bank Expect Elevated Inflation to Persist,” by Andrew Duehren and Yuka Hayashi
→ “Advisory Firm Teneo Near Deal to Buy WestExec Advisors,” by Cara Lombardo
→”FBI seizes retired general’s data related to Qatar lobbying,” by Alan Suderman and Jim Mustian
→ “Judge sends another trove of Eastman emails to Jan. 6 committee,” by Kyle Cheney
→ “California races that will shape control of Congress come into focus after primary,” by Seema Mehta and Melanie Mason
PRESENTED BY GOOGLE
Google is helping build a safer open source community
As digital attacks continue to evolve, threatening governments, businesses and people, Google has pledged $10 billion over the next five years to strengthen America’s collective cybersecurity.
Keeping with this pledge, Google has launched the Open Source Maintenance Crew, with the goal that every open source developer should have effortless access to end-to-end security by default.
This team of Google engineers is dedicated to improving the security of critical open source projects by preventing and fixing vulnerabilities, and shortening response time.
Editorial photos provided by Getty Images
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