Feb 27, 2019

House passes bill for universal background checks

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Photo: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call

The House on Wednesday passed the Bipartisan Background Checks Act, which would require background checks for all firearm sales, including those sold at gun shows and online.

Why it matters: This is the first gun control bill that Congress has considered in nearly 25 years. Gun control has been near the top of the Democratic agenda since the party took back control of the House in November's midterms, galvanized by recent mass shootings and student-led activism.

Details: The bill, HR 8, also prohibits firearms transfers by a person who is not a licensed dealer. However, it does exclude "gifts to family members and transfers for hunting, target shooting, and self-defense," according to the House Judiciary Committee website.

  • House Republicans were also able to add an amendment to the bill — with support from some Democrats — that would force the NICS background check database to notify ICE if an undocumented immigrant attempts to buy a firearm.
  • Critics of the bill, including shooting survivor Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), note that universal background checks would target law-abiding owners and could not have prevented several recent shootings in which shooters had passed a federal background check.

What to watch: Majority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.) told CNN on Tuesday that it's "unlikely" the Republican majority will take up the bill for debate soon. A second bill, the Enhanced Background Checks Act, is up for a vote in the House on Thursday. It would extend time for the FBI to conduct background checks.

Go deeper: The flurry of new state gun laws after Parkland

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Trump's clemency spree

Rod Blagojevich in 2010. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

President Trump announced Tuesday that he commuted former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich's 14-year prison sentence for extortion, bribery and corruption — as well as issuing full pardons for former San Francisco 49ers owner Edward DeBartolo Jr., former NYPD Commissioner Bernie Kerik and financier Michael Milken.

The big picture: The president's clemency spree largely benefitted white-collar criminals convicted of crimes like corruption, gambling fraud and racketeering, undercutting his message of "draining the swamp."

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Trump's improbable moonshot

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

NASA is unlikely to meet its deadline of sending astronauts to the surface of the Moon by 2024, even with a large influx of funding.

Why it matters: The Artemis mission to send people back to the Moon is the Trump administration's flagship space policy, and its aggressive, politically-motivated timeline is its hallmark.

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Justice Department says U.S. attorneys are reviewing Ukraine information

Rudy Giuliani. Photo: Roy Rochlin/Getty Images

Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd sent a letter to House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) Tuesday informing him that the U.S. attorneys for the Eastern District of New York and the Western District of Pennsylvania are reviewing "unsolicited" information from the public related to matters involving Ukraine.

Why it matters: Nadler had requested an explanation for the "intake process" that Attorney General Bill Barr stated had been set up in order to receive information that Rudy Giuliani had obtained about the Bidens in Ukraine.