The debate over gun violence legislation took multiple turns on Tuesday as President Biden waded into the Senate’s continued talks and multiple outside figures made emotional pleas calling for changes to laws concerning firearms and domestic terrorism.
Biden, who has allowed senators to work among themselves on a gun proposal in recent days, met with Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) at the White House, marking his first major involvement in private discussions since they kicked off. The White House indicated that Biden is likely to accept the ultimate deal, no matter how modest.
“He believes any step is a step forward,” said White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.
Biden and Murphy met for nearly 40 minutes, with the president indicating that he will continue to give negotiators room to operate without interference, according to the Connecticut Democrat.
“Nobody knows the Senate better than President Biden, and he knows that we’ve got to work out our compromise on our own,” Murphy told reporters at the White House following the meeting. He added that the goal remains to get a deal by week’s end but said Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) “has been clear that if we need some extra time to dot the I’s and cross the T’s, we’ll get it.”
“I’m grateful that the White House is giving us the space necessary to get a deal done,” Murphy said. “Every day we get closer to an agreement, not further away,” Murphy also told reporters on Capitol Hill later in the day.
Talks between Murphy and Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) have continued to center on incentivizing states to pass red flag laws and funding for mental health and school safety as well as to strengthen background checks.
According to Tillis, the four senators are discussing an extended waiting period for individuals under 21 to give more time to conduct background checks and access juvenile records that reveal mental health issues or histories of crime.
“What we’re talking about most are background checks, juvenile records, the areas where we can get consensus,” Tillis said (The Wall Street Journal).
▪ The Washington Post: Hopes for quick gun deal fade as Senate negotiators plead for patience.
▪ Politico: Democrats’ big bet on guns: Take a narrow deal now, push GOP later.
▪ Alexander Bolton, The Hill: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) puts his imprint on the Senate’s gun talks.
▪ NBC News: Cornyn, “linchpin” of a gun safety deal, seeks to tame GOP fears on gun rights.
Meanwhile, it was a pair of non-Washington figures who made headlines in the quest for action in Congress.
Matthew McConaughey, the famed actor and Uvalde, Texas, native, appeared at Tuesday’s White House briefing to make an impassioned appeal for “real change” and told the stories of a number of the victims of the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School he learned while on the ground in the town (The Hill).
“We want secure and safe schools, and we want gun laws that won’t make it so easy for the bad guys to get these damn guns,” McConaughey, who last year declined a bid for the Texas governorship, said, relaying what he heard from many Second Amendment supporters in the town. “Responsible gun owners are fed up with the Second Amendment being abused and hijacked by some deranged individuals.”
“As divided as our country is, this gun responsibility issue is one we agree on more than we don’t. It really is. But this should be a nonpartisan issue,” he continued during his 20-minute appearance. “We start by making these lives matter.”
© Associated Press / Evan Vucci | Matthew McConaughey in the White House briefing room on Tuesday.
On Capitol Hill, Garnell Whitfield Jr. — the son of Ruth Whitfield, 86, one of the 10 victims killed in the mass shooting at a Buffalo grocery store last month — told lawmakers on Monday the shooter “did not act alone” in the massacre, having been radicalized by white supremacists.
Whitfield, Jr., testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee, asked legislators what they could do to stop white supremacy and proceeded to call out the lack of action to weed out extremists, including the gunman in Buffalo (The Hill).
“We’re angry. We’re mad as hell. Because this should have never happened. We’re good citizens. Good people. We believe in God, we trust in God, but this wasn’t an act of God. This was an act of a person, and he did not act alone,” Whitfield said. “His anger and hatred were metastasized like a cancer by people with big microphones in high places screaming that Black people were going to take away their jobs and opportunities.”
Whitfield Jr. challenged senators to “yield your positions” if they do nothing after the recent mass shootings (ABC News).
▪ The Hill and The Washington Post: Former Vice President Mike Pence is woven into the Jan. 6 committee investigation. For example, the committee wants to know whether former President Trump and his political aides played any role in encouraging the Secret Service to remove Pence from the Capitol after the building was stormed by Trump supporters — and before Pence had overseen the certification of Biden’s victory.
▪ The New York Times: Proud Boys charged with sedition in Capitol attack.
▪ The Associated Press: Proud Boys documentarian to be among first Jan. 6 witnesses.
▪ Niall Stanage, The Hill: Five questions that hang over the Jan. 6 committee’s public hearings.
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LEADING THE DAY
While senators deliberate about how to respond to an epidemic of mass shootings, Biden today flies to California to promote hemispheric economic policies he’s touting as the host of the Summit of the Americas being held in Los Angeles. He will appear tonight in a taped interview on ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” It is expected to be a friendly setting in which domestic worries, including inflation and guns, are topics.
The president may address a chilling domestic terror threat warning on Tuesday from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which described online forums that have encouraged copycat mass shootings following the carnage in Uvalde, Texas. The department’s intelligence analysts say some online platforms are telling followers that the U.S. government staged the killings at Robb Elementary School in order to push gun control measures through Congress (CNN and CBS News). The DHS said it is worried about events this summer, including the Supreme Court’s pending abortion rights ruling, as well as midterm elections in November.
“As the United States enters mid-term election season this year, we assess that calls for violence by domestic violent extremists directed at democratic institutions, political candidates, party offices, election events, and election workers will likely increase,” the bulletin said.
Biden has repeatedly said inflation is his No. 1 domestic concern. On Tuesday, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen told senators that rising prices for consumers in everything from gasoline and energy to food and rent are “unacceptable,” but she said inflation also is a global problem (Fox Business and CNN Business).
Yellen also defended pandemic spending and said it is time to “act big,” even as inflation persists and is likely to linger (The New York Times).
“To dampen inflationary pressures without undermining the strength of the labor market, an appropriate budgetary stance is needed to complement monetary policy actions by the Federal Reserve,” she said. “Moving forward, elements of the president’s proposed legislation — including the clean energy initiatives and plans to reform the prescription drug market — can help lower the costs paid by American consumers.”
▪ Bloomberg News: Biden plans solar manufacturing push to end project slowdown.
▪ The Hill: Biden has turned repeatedly to the Defense Production Act, to the GOP’s scorn.
Primary day in seven states came and went on Tuesday, and voters made clear once again their preference for a tough-on-crime agenda.
In California, it is too early to project a number of races given the outstanding vote across the state. However, two races caught the attention of the masses, headlined by the recall of San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin, marking a stunning setback for progressive advocates of criminal justice reform.
Sixty percent of San Franciscans voted to remove Boudin from office. The ouster comes months after voters did the same to three school board members. His replacement will now be chosen by Mayor London Breed (D), who is expected to tap someone with a more moderate reputation (The Hill).
Meanwhile, Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.) and businessman Rick Caruso emerged on Tuesday as the finalists in Los Angeles’ mayoral race. Bass, an influential member of the Congressional Black Caucus, is considered the favorite, but Caruso has made his mark on the race, having pumped roughly $34 million into his bid that is focused on a rise in crime (The Hill).
In Iowa, retired Navy Adm. Michael Franken is set for his general election campaign after taking home the state’s Democratic Senate nomination on Tuesday night.
Franken, a relative newcomer to the political scene, defeated former Rep. Abby Finkenauer (D-Iowa) for the party nod, taking home 55.2 percent to only 40 percent for the former northeast Iowa lawmaker (The Hill). The win propels him into a November contest against Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), 89, who is seeking his eighth term in the upper chamber and has a history of winning reelection by wide margins (The Hill).
Along with California and Iowa, voters in Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico and South Dakota also went to the polls.
Most of the key happenings took place on the House map. In South Dakota, Rep. Dusty Johnson (R) beat back a primary challenge from Tuffy Howard (The Hill). In the Garden State, former New Jersey state Senate GOP leader Tom Kean Jr. topped a seven-way primary to set up a rematch with incumbent Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-N.J.) in the state’s 7th District (The Hill).
Finally, in Mississippi, Rep. Steve Palazzo (R) is headed into a runoff in the state’s 4th District after he failed to reach the 50 percent threshold in the GOP primary battle. The race became ripe with challengers after an ethics watchdog group found last year there was “substantial” evidence he misused campaign funds to improve a riverfront home before a sale and unethically used his office to help his brother reenlist in the Navy (The Hill).
The New York Times: Robert Menendez Jr., son of a senator, wins a Democratic House primary in New Jersey.
The New York Times: Six takeaways from Tuesday’s elections.
© Associated Press / Rogelio V. Solis | An election worker cuts out “I Voted” stickers in Bolton, Miss., on Tuesday.
▪ Reid Wilson, The Hill: States consider nixing antiquated slavery language from founding documents.
▪ The Hill: Gisele Fetterman says her husband, the Democratic Senate candidate in Pennsylvania, may not return to the campaign trail for another month.
Elsewhere on the political scene, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) escalated her feud with Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.), chairman of the House Democratic campaign arm, on Tuesday by endorsing his main primary opponent.
The progressive lawmaker threw her support behind state Sen. Alessandra Biaggi (D) in the new 17th District, handing her a boost three weeks before the Empire State’s primary contests.
The move also comes weeks after Maloney declined to run in the district he largely currently represents, which angered progressives. That group included Ocasio-Cortez, who called for Maloney to step down from his perch atop the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee if any member-on-member primaries were created by his move, but none ultimately were.
Maloney told The New York Times that while he has “nothing but respect” for Ocasio-Cortez, “local voices are what matters in this race and they’re overwhelmingly supporting me.”
▪ Politico: “Better than President Trump”: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s (R) clout swells in the West.
▪ NBC-Orlando: DeSantis signs bill aimed at making Florida schools safer.
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
➤ UKRAINE CRISIS
Russia has made capturing control of Ukraine’s Donbas region its near-term goal in a war that is grinding ahead with ferocious shelling on both sides. Today, Ukrainian troops holding out in the ruins of Sievierodonetsk are under renewed heavy assault from Russian forces who see the capture of the industrial city as key to control of the surrounding Luhansk region (Reuters).
On Tuesday, Russia claimed to have taken control of 97 percent of Luhansk, one of the two provinces in the region, bringing Russian President Vladimir Putin closer to a strategic goal of seizing the eastern industrial heartland of Ukraine’s coal mines and factories.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Moscow’s forces hold nearly all of Luhansk province. And it appears that Russia now occupies roughly half of Donetsk province, according to Ukrainian officials and military analysts (The Associated Press).
The Washington Post: Dramatic destruction is visible across eastern Ukraine, according to satellite photos.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Tuesday that Ukraine will fight to recover all its territory occupied by Russian forces (Reuters). The mayor of Sievierodonetsk on Tuesday claimed Ukrainian forces were still “holding the city” (The Washington Post), but today, the region’s governor said Ukrainian military forces may have to pull back to stronger positions in the embattled eastern city (Reuters).
Zelensky asserted in his Tuesday evening video address that Russia made no significant advances in the Donetsk province (The Associated Press).
Earlier, Russia said the Ukrainian ports of Mariupol and Berdyansk, which Moscow’s forces recently captured, were de-mined and ready to ship grain, which is considered essential to global food supplies, including in Africa (The Washington Post and Reuters).
Russia also began to increase some oil exports to Asian buyers to help offset the European Union ban on its petroleum (Reuters).
The Hill: Oil prices this summer could hit $140 a barrel, predicts Goldman Sachs, although it foresees a price decline in the fourth quarter of the year.
Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev blasted the U.S. and the West — via the messaging app Telegram — describing nations allied behind Ukraine as “bastards” and “scum” on Tuesday. Medvedev, now the deputy head of Russia’s Security Council, said, “They want that Russia and all of us die,” adding that “as long as I’m alive, I will do everything to make them disappear” (MarketWatch and The Mirror).
© Associated Press / Natacha Pisarenko | Civilian militia training outside Kyiv, Ukraine, on Tuesday.
■ Mugged by reality, again. Is a decade of destructive progressive ideology finally coming to an end? by Bret Stephens, columnist, The New York Times. https://nyti.ms/3O1X5mR
■ Ignore the GOP spin. The nation still hasn’t reckoned with Jan. 6, by The Washington Post editorial board. https://wapo.st/3Nyz0Eg
WHERE AND WHEN
The House meets at 10 a.m.
The Senate convenes at 10 a.m. and resumes consideration of the nomination of Lisa Gomez to be an assistant secretary of Labor.
The president flies to Los Angeles to host this week’s Summit of the Americas. He will tape an appearance on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” in the afternoon upon arrival. Biden will officially greet heads of delegations attending the summit at 4 p.m. PDT. The president and first lady Jill Biden at 5:15 p.m. PDT will participate in the inaugural summit ceremony and the president will speak.
Vice President Harris is in California. She will speak about the root causes of migration to a gathering of CEOs gathered for the Summit of the Americas at the InterContinental Hotel in Los Angeles at 11 a.m. PDT. She will visit Dream Big Children’s Center to discuss small business policies with employees and customers at 2 p.m. PDT. The vice president at 5 p.m. PDT at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles will make brief remarks at the inaugural ceremony of the Summit of the Americas.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken is in Los Angeles where he will participate in a morning discussion and Q&A session at a CEO Summit with Myron Brilliant, U.S. Chamber executive vice president and head of international affairs.Blinken at 9:30 a.m. PDT leads a meeting of the implementation review group associated with the Summit of the Americas. The secretary meets with Canadian Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly and Panamanian Foreign Minister Erika Mouynes for a panel discussion at L.A.’s Civil Society Forum at 11:30 a.m. PDT. He will visit the Young Entrepreneurs Expo at the Young Americas Forum at 1:45 p.m. PDT in L.A.
Treasury’s Yellen at 10 a.m. will testify before the House Committee on Ways and Means.
Second gentleman Doug Emhoff is in California and will deliver welcoming remarks this morning at the Young Americas Forum. He will visit the University of Southern California to meet with representatives from USC Shoah Foundation at 10 a.m. PDT. Emhoff will accompany Harris at 5 p.m. PDT to the inaugural ceremony of the Summit of the Americas in L.A.
The Center for Environmental Health and the Center for Biological Diversity filed suit on Tuesday alleging the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has failed to sufficiently address smog pollution in Los Angeles and Sacramento, Calif., as well as New Hampshire. The two groups accused the EPA of failing to take action to reduce smog levels below the 2008 ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standards in those areas. According to the lawsuit, the EPA in 2017 published a rule identifying 15 states and the District of Columbia that had not properly submitted implementation plans for compliance (The Hill).
The drug dostarlimab, used in a clinical trial of 18 patients that was sponsored by the drug company GlaxoSmithKline, stunned physicians by obliterating all traces of rectal cancer in each participant. Luis Diaz of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center described the results in a Sunday New England Journal of Medicine paper. He said he knew of no other study in which a treatment erased evidence of a type of cancer in every patient. None of the participants had clinically significant complications; the study results will need to be replicated and studied further (The New York Times). … Separately, a liquid biopsy may be able to tell which colon cancer patients can skip chemotherapy, according to research presented this week at the American Society of Clinical Oncology in Chicago (Reuters and The Associated Press).
➤ POX & PANDEMIC
The Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) expert advisory committee voted unanimously on Tuesday to recommend Novavax’s two-dose COVID-19 vaccine for use in those 18 and older in the U.S., putting the drug closer to approval by the FDA, possibly this week. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also must sign off. Some at the FDA believe Novavax’s vaccine, created with traditional protein technology around for decades, would potentially appeal to people who have not gotten immunized because they are wary about the messenger RNA technology used by Pfizer and Moderna (CNBC).
Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported as of this morning, according to Johns Hopkins University (trackers all vary slightly): 1,009,338. Current average U.S. COVID-19 daily deaths are 287, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
© Associated Press / Jose Luis Magana | Corpse flower or Amorphophallus titanum at U.S. Botanic Garden, 2016.
And finally … It is odiferously foul. An eight-foot corpse flower bloomed inside the U.S. Botanic Garden’s courtyard on Thursday, inviting visitors to sniff the rare, 9-year-old plant, which looks like something from outer space and smells like rotting flesh. Peak stink lasts about 36 hours in the blooming phase (WTOP).
The oddity is located next door to Congress. Kismet.