Obama plans road trip to prod Senate to move on gun-control legislation

President Obama will hit the road to rally Senate support for new gun controls in coming weeks, seeking to frame upcoming votes on an assault weapons ban and universal background checks as tests of political courage for skittish Democrats.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Monday that Obama would travel the country in the coming weeks to rally support for the proposals, written in the aftermath of the Newtown, Conn., elementary school shooting that left 20 children and six educators dead.

"I do anticipate that you will see the president using the power of the bully pulpit, as you describe it, by traveling across the country a little bit and talking about some of these issues," Earnest said.

Earnest said Obama was "pleased" with plans announced by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) last week to hold a vote on gun control legislation when Congress returns from Easter break. 

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Reid's bill includes expanded background checks, funding for school security and new penalties for those straw purchasing guns, but it does not include an assault weapons ban. Instead, Reid has promised to hold a vote on banning certain semiautomatic weapons and high-capacity magazines as an amendment to the overall bill.

"What Leader Reid has said is that he would allow it to be offered up as an amendment, which would give everybody in the Senate the opportunity to vote on it and to have it be included as part of the legislation," Earnest told reporters.

"The president thinks that is really important. And it will be a question for all 100 members of the Senate to ask themselves about whether or not they think that voting for and supporting an assault weapons ban would actually do something to reduce gun violence in communities all across the country."

Reid has cautioned that, although he will allowed the assault weapons ban to be offered as an amendment, it has little chance of being approved.

Separately, Organizing for Action — the political group born from the president's reelection campaign — announced Monday it would hold more than 100 events across the country on Thursday to support efforts to reduce gun violence.

And New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (I) on Sunday announced that his political action committee would spend $12 million on television ads over the next month urging swing-state lawmakers to back the firearms legislation.

“We've been fighting since 2007 to get a vote. We are going to have a vote for sure on assault weapons and we're going to have a vote on background checks,” Bloomberg said Sunday on "Meet the Press."

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On Monday, Earnest said he did not know whether the White House had coordinated with Bloomberg on that effort, but he noted that the New York City mayor and Vice President Biden had spoken in recent weeks.

"We certainly have been in touch with Mayor Bloomberg, as we have been with a range of individuals," Earnest said.

The White House is hoping to frame the coming vote as an opportunity for those in Congress to display political leadership.

"I see it as another opportunity for members of the United States Senate to demonstrate some political courage," Earnest said.

But the administration is also quick to point out that many of the proposals in the core Senate legislation garner broad political support. In a Quinnipiac University poll released Friday, 88 percent of all Americans said they support universal background checks on the purchase of firearms.

"There actually is a lot of strong support for the proposals that the president has put forward, whether it's universal background checks, whether it is, you know, outlawing gun trafficking or straw purchasers," Earnest said. "There's even some support out there in the public for the assault weapons ban."