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Trump and Congressional Republicans. Photo: Saul Loeb /AFP /Getty Images

No one knows what, if anything, Congress is going to be able to do on guns. If there was tepid optimism going into the week that the Senate would be able to quickly pass a bipartisan, NRA-backed bill that strengthens the existing background check system, it was quickly replaced by the chaos that now erupts every time Congress tries to address something difficult.

Between the lines: The confusion and lack of a clear direction on the Hill mirrors the White House. President Trump has been all over the place since the Parkland shooting, and congressional Republicans are either not taking him seriously or unwilling to embrace many of the gun control policies he's floated.

I don’t really consider this a solvable problem in the current environment.
— A senior Senate GOP aide

Recap of yesterday:

  • Majority Whip John Cornyn ran a test to see where members land on the background check bill he cosponsors with Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy. Sen. Mike Lee objected, meaning the bill can't quickly pass unanimously for now (other senators may have objected too).
  • Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said to vote on that bill, Fix NICS, alone "would be an abject failure and a dereliction of our duty," and called for universal background check legislation.
  • Murphy told reporters he won't vote for his own bill unless it's in the context of a broader gun debate and accompanied by other votes.

President Trump said again that he'd like to arm school personnel, seemed to advocate for bringing back mental institutions, said police should be given "immediate access to taking those guns away" from "sick people," and said he wanted to "strengthen" Cornyn's bill.

  • Reporters flocked to both Republicans and red-state Democrats to get them on the record about the numerous proposals Trump has backed in one way or another in the past couple of days, including arming teachers and raising the age at which someone can buy an assault rifle.

Bottom line: No one knows how Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is going to proceed.

  • Sen. Roy Blunt, a member of GOP leadership, said he'd like to bring Fix NICS to the floor and then open it to amendments. "We’re better off to deal with this than go on and worry about it the rest of the legislative year," he told me, adding it was his personal opinion.
  • Others are skeptical McConnell will bring anything to the floor, but may attach something to a must-pass spending bill.
  • The House is waiting to see what the Senate does, a House leadership aide said. But most Hill watchers assume the House would take up Fix NICS if the Senate passes it, even without the concealed carry provision it attached when it passed its version of the bill earlier.

Go deeper

Toyota to build $1.3 billion U.S. battery plant in North Carolina

The all-electric Toyota bZ4X, the company's first battery-electric vehicle, at the Los Angeles Auto Show in Los Angeles, California on Nov. 17. Photo: Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images

Toyota announced Monday it's investing $1.3 billion to construct an electric vehicle battery "megasite" near Greensboro, North Carolina, set to open in 2025.

Why it matters: Toyota's Prius hybrid won environmental plaudits when it launched in 1997, but it has since lost ground to electric vehicle world leader Tesla, per Axios' Joann Muller. This battery plant will be the first to produce automotive batteries for Toyota in North America.

3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Congress hunts for shortcut to pass defense funding, debt limit combo

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer returned to his office Monday. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

The scramble in Congress to pass the National Defense Authorization Act is being complicated by an effort to tie it to a needed hike in the federal debt limit.

Why it matters: The House and Senate are rapidly coming up against a series of deadlines they must address before the end of the year — or risk disrupting crucial military funding and upending the economy. Congressional leaders are now hoping they can knock out both "must-pass" priorities in one, complex swoop.

Scoop: Inside Jake Sullivan's call with U.S. hostages' families

Photo: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA/Bloomberg via Getty Images

National security adviser Jake Sullivan spoke last week with relatives of U.S. hostages and others wrongfully detained abroad, after more than two dozen families expressed frustrations about their inability to get a meeting with him or President Biden, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: Participants on the video call, which began at 7pm ET Friday and lasted more than an hour, told Axios they didn't get satisfactory answers to many of their questions. Nonetheless, they were encouraged by Sullivan's commitment to follow up and pledge to be personally available to them and others going forward.