NotedDC — Democrats struggle to turn outrage into action
Each week following a mass shooting seems like Groundhog Day in Washington. Both parties offer thoughts and prayers, Democrats call for gun control legislation and Republicans argue that attention should be focused on the tragedy, not reforming gun laws.
A Morning Consult/POLITICO poll conducted in the wake of Tuesday’s shooting in Uvalde, Texas, indicates broad support for policy changes.
Eighty-eight percent support requiring background checks on all gun sales, 75 percent support creating a national database with information about each gun sale and 67 percent support banning assault weapons.
The results echo a message Democrats will most likely stick with: Most Americans want “commonsense” gun reform to save people’s lives.
“Young people are dying from this issue, and we need to do something to save our lives,” Zeenat Yahya, policy director for gun control organization March for Our Lives, told NotedDC.
But academic researchers aren’t so optimistic that things will be different this time.
“The chances of that [shooting] happening are low enough for so many people and they don’t see it as a real possibility,” Ben Kantack, an assistant professor at Lycoming College who researches public opinion after mass shootings, told NotedDC.
“We’re almost desensitized to the pattern now,” Kantack said. “We’re just kind of numb to it.”
Cardona: ‘Thoughts and prayers are not enough anymore’
The Texas school shooting was a primary focus of a Thursday congressional hearing with Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, though the meeting had been scheduled well before the Uvalde massacre and was meant to provide an update on the Biden administration‘s budget proposal.
Cardona, who was an elementary school principal in Connecticut at the time of the deadly Sandy Hook shooting just 30 miles away, used the opportunity in front of the House Education and Labor Committee to call for strategic safety measures for schools.
“The solution of arming teachers, in my opinion, is further disrespect to a profession that’s already beleaguered and not feeling the support of so many folks — We need to make sure we’re empowering our teachers to be successful at teaching our children,” he said.
“I think what Americans want to see is collaboration and — and bipartisanship, working together to do action. Thoughts and prayers are not enough anymore. We need to stop that we need to get to work. Americans are looking to us for answers, and we must deliver.
His remarks came as he fielded questions about education funding, student loan debt, COVID-19 recovery and educational opportunity. But Tuesday’s shooting dominated the hearing, which began with a moment of silence for the victims.
“Two days ago, 19 children and two educators were gunned down in an elementary school in Texas. Regrettably, this is too common [an] occurrence in this country,” committee Chair Bobby Scott (D-Va.) said at the top of the meeting, which was conducted virtually.
“We could have prevented a lot of these if elected leaders value children and families more than guns instead of time and time again, Congress has failed to act to to fail to act to enact any sensible a widely supported proposals to respond to these strategies and prevent another one from happening,” Scott said.
Rep. Virginia Fox (N.C.), who is the ranking GOP member on the panel, said she’s willing to work with the chairman on addressing school safety but cautioned against a rushed effort.
“There are no right words to describe the heartbreak again horrific tragedy that happened at Robb Elementary School,” she said. “We must be thoughtful about how we discuss and handle school safety and mental health issues … there are still many details we do not know as the investigation continues.”
SENATE REJECTS TERRORISM BILL BUT LAUNCHES GUN TALKS
The Senate left for recess Thursday after Republicans blocked a domestic terrorism prevention bill brought to the floor in reaction to the mass shooting in Buffalo, N.Y., last week.
Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) wanted to use the measure as an opportunity to bring gun control amendments to the floor, but Democrats continue to struggle to get any GOP support on firearm bills.
New bipartisan talks, however, are set for after Memorial Day.
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.)– who has led the charge on gun control for nearly a decade – is in talks with Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.)
- Murphy, Toomey and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) plan to focus on expanded background checks. Toomey and Manchin two failed in 2013 to pass an amendment that would’ve mandated criminal background checks on most sales between private parties.
- Blumenthal and Graham are joining forces to negotiate something on red flag laws, which prohibit those deemed to be a risk to themselves or others from buying a gun.
Worth noting: Manchin told The Hill’s Mychael Schnell Thursday that compared to 2013, he’s “more encouraged right now that there’s more people that know that we need to do something reasonable and responsible.”
Exclusive: Report sought on lowering drug prices
Sens. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) and Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.) will announce legislation Friday that directs the Government Accountability Office to conduct a report on the impact that nonprofit pharmaceutical organizations could have on lowering drug costs and accelerating new drug development.
“The rising cost of prescription drugs is having a real and negative impact on the health and well-being of Nevadans, and I’m ready to do everything we can do to make crucial medications more affordable,”Rosen said.
Flashback: Rosen published an op-ed in The Hill about lowering drug costs last year when she introduced another bill aimed at reducing the costs of drugs and medical devices.
Primary season rolls on
After a break in action for Memorial Day week, the next major primary day hits states the following Tuesday. Here are some of the big battles coming that day:
Easily the biggest primary fight on June 7, California voters will see several major offices on their ballots, including governor, secretary of state, attorney general and U.S. senator, in addition to members of Congress and state lawmakers.
Remember: California’s primary system is unique in that, for statewide races, all candidates will appear on the same ballot. The top two candidates, regardless of party, will then face off in the Nov. 8 general election.
Governor: Gavin Newsom (D) survived a recall attempt less than a year ago, largely brought on by opposition to his COVID-19 policies.
The governor, first elected in 2018, faces 25 challengers, though he’s predicted to ultimately win reelection this fall.
Secretary of State and Attorney General: Both of these statewide offices are currently held by Newsom appointees — thanks to a chain reaction set off by President Biden‘s win in the 2020 election.
Secretary of State Shirley Weber (D) replaced Alex Padilla, after Padilla was appointed to the Senate seat previously held by Vice President Harris. (More on Padilla in a minute.)
Attorney General Rob Bonta (D) was appointed to fill the vacancy left when Biden appointed Xavier Becerra as secretary of Health and Human Services.
Another appointee post: Voters will see the Senate seat that Padilla now holds listed twice — one to fill the remainder of Harris’s term, ending in January, and the other to a full six-year term. Padilla is seeking both.
Senate: Sen. Chuck Grassley (R), who at 88 is the oldest member of the upper chamber, faces a GOP challenger in state Sen. Jim Carlin in the June 7 primary.
On the Democratic side, three candidates are vying for the nomination to face off against the Republican primary winner this fall.
Congress: Democratic Rep. Cindy Axne faces no primary challenger in her bid for reelection to represent the state’s 1st District. But three Republicans are battling for the chance to face her in the November election.
Of note: Axne’s district voted for Donald Trump in 2020.
Other states with primaries on June 7: Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, South Dakota and Mississippi. NotedDC will explore more on those next week.
Korean pop sensations coming to White House
Korean pop superstars BTS will join forces with President Biden and Vice President Harris Tuesday to raise awareness about anti-Asian hate crimes.
The group – known for its hits including “Butter” and “Dynamite” – come to Washington as hate crimes against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) are at an all-time high in the U.S.
According to the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, anti-AAPI incidents rose by 300 percent in 2021.
BTS hasn’t shied away from speaking out against racism. Following the Atlanta spa shooting that killed six Asian women, the group tweeted that they have experienced “expletives without reason and were mocked for the way they look.”
They also donated $1 million to Black Lives Matter during the protests after the 2020 death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Stars come to DC for Memorial Day weekend concert
The stage is set in front of the Capitol for the annual National Memorial Day Concert, bringing together celebrities and members of the military this Sunday.
Actors Joe Mantegna and Gary Sinise will host the show with appearances by actors Mary McCormack, Jean Smart and Gil Birmingham.
One notable name will be missing: General Colin Powell. The former secretary of State, who passed away in October, attended the concert for nearly 25 years. Actor Dennis Haybert is slated to honor him Sunday.
Unfortunately, the public will not be able to watch the concert in its traditional fashion as the Capitol continues its phased reopening. But you can watch it on PBS at 8 p.m. EST.
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