Biden pledges to meet with Congress on guns
President Biden on Tuesday pledged to meet with lawmakers about enacting gun legislation in response to recent mass shootings.
“I will meet with the Congress on guns, I promise you,” Biden told reporters during a meeting with New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in the Oval Office.
Biden did not say with whom specifically he would meet or when. Lawmakers are currently on recess and scheduled to return to Washington, D.C., during the first full week of June.
The president has faced pressure from gun advocates to get more involved in the congressional talks about gun reform, as proponents of stricter gun laws grow frustrated with the lack of action on Capitol Hill.
Currently, Senate Democrats and Republicans are meeting on potential bipartisan legislation. However, there is a healthy dose of skepticism in Washington as to whether the talks will ultimately bear fruit.
Speaking to reporters at a press briefing later Tuesday, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre indicated that Biden would keep some distance from the bipartisan negotiations for the time being in order to allow them to play out.
“When the time comes, he will get involved,” Jean-Pierre said. “What we’re going to continue to do is call on Congress to act.”
Jean-Pierre said that Biden had asked his team to explore potential further executive actions on guns and insisted that White House officials are in regular contact with offices on Capitol Hill.
Biden acknowledged on Monday that he hadn’t yet spoken to Republican lawmakers about potential gun-related legislation in the wake of the horrifying mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, but expressed some tacit optimism that GOP lawmakers would be open to enacting gun reform.
“I think they’re going to have to take a hard look,” Biden told reporters at the White House. The president also described Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), who has been tasked by McConnell to negotiate with Democrats, as “rational Republicans.”
“I think there’s a recognition in their part that they — we can’t continue like this,” Biden added.
While some gun measures have passed the Democrat-controlled House, Senate Democrats are severely limited in what they can accomplish due to the legislative filibuster — the 60-vote threshold needed to end debate on most legislation.
In order to move gun legislation, Democrats will need at least 10 Republicans to vote along with them.
Republican and Democratic negotiators were scheduled to meet over Zoom on Tuesday in hopes of reaching a basic framework to respond to the mass shootings that occurred this month in Uvalde and Buffalo, N.Y., by next week.
Biden spent the afternoon in Uvalde on Sunday meeting with grieving families who lost loved ones in the shooting at Robb Elementary School that left 19 children and two teachers dead.
Biden briefly reflected on his meetings in Uvalde on Tuesday and expressed regret at the number of communities recovering from mass shootings that he has visited during his tenure.
“So much of it is preventable and the devastation is amazing,” Biden told Ardern, adding that the pain was “palpable” during his meetings with families in Uvalde.
Updated at 4:02 p.m.
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