Jun 3, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Biden officials privately bearish on gun control deal

President Biden spoke last night with the backdrop of 56 candles, representing gun violence in all 50 states and six territories.

White House officials are privately bearish Congress will pass anything substantial to limit guns.

Why it matters: Biden aides aren't under any delusion that a presidential speech will change deeply entrenched and structural obstruction on Capitol Hill.

Biden — stymied after mass shootings in Buffalo, Uvalde and Tulsa — used the word "enough" 11 times during a 17-minute address to the nation on gun violence last night:

  • "How many more innocent American lives must be taken before we say 'enough'? Enough! ... Enough. Enough. ... Enough. ... Enough. ... Enough. Enough. Enough! ... My fellow Americans, enough! Enough.  It’s time for each of us to do our part. It's time to act."

The big picture: Since the Uvalde elementary school killings 10 days ago, Democrats have tried to give Senate Republicans the political space to do something on guns.

  • The goal has been to break the fever. Build some momentum. Help the country heal. "Enough" is the watchword — expect to hear that as a rising rallying cry across the nation.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said yesterday: "Look, he’s encouraged. He's encouraged by what we’re seeing on the Hill. You know, this is the first time in a very long time that we have seen this type of bipartisanship."

Between the lines: Last night the president didn't slam the door on bipartisan talks, but he didn't make it any easier for Republicans to buck their base and meet Democrats halfway.

  • If GOP senators are looking for any excuse to bail on negotiations, the president gave it to them. He called for specifics, including an assault weapons ban, that are nonstarters: "We need to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines."

What we're watching: The question for Republican senators is how offended they decide to get about Biden’s political rhetoric.  

  • Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a key player in the talks, tweeted for Biden to bring it on: "I stand ready to vote on ALL the proposals mentioned by President Biden tonight and encourage the Democratic Leader to bring them forward." Translation: He would vote no.
  • Then Graham softened his tone: "I also stand ready to work across the aisle to find common ground - something that was absent from President Biden’s address to the nation."

The bottom line: Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) has been telling folks he’s more hopeful and optimistic based on his conversations with Republicans. But the Biden team remains skeptical.

Editor's note: Adds White House comment.

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