The post-inauguration push for President Obama’s ambitious second term agenda kicks into high gear this week, with major action on Capitol Hill for two of Obama’s signature legislative goals: immigration reform and gun violence prevention.
While most of the news Monday was dominated by a bipartisan call for comprehensive immigration reform in the Senate, the day also kicked off a big week for gun violence prevention. Recent days have included a push by Vice President Biden for the president’s gun control agenda — as well as signs that in the Senate at least, key parts of that agenda could be picking up steam.
Some things to watch over the next seven days:
• Senate Republicans
Last week brought stories of Republican Senators crossing the aisle to at least rhetorically endorse some of the president’s top goals on gun control. Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) is reportedly working with Democratic Senators on legislation to ban the trafficking of illegal guns. He’s also working “to find an amenable background-check proposal,” according to staff.
It is not so surprising that Kirk has joined the push for new gun laws after the Newtown, Conn., school massacre. He has supported a ban on so-called assault weapons in the past and has expressed support for new proposals for one. But there are signs more conservative Republicans are ready to join the push for background checks, which is the central legislative goal of gun control advocates in the current debate. On Friday, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) said he’s working with Democrats on a background check plan. (Coburn did not respond to a request for comment from TPM Monday.)
If more Republicans come out in support of expanded background checks, or at least the concept of them, it would bode well for that chunk of the president’s gun violence plan.
• High-Profile Hearings Begin
On Wednesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee will host leaders from all sides of the gun violence debate for a hearing. On hand will be Mark Kelly, the husband of former Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-AZ) and organizer of a new pro-gun control super PAC, and Wayne LaPierre, the National Rifle Association executive vice president. Committee chair Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) has said he hopes to have gun violence legislation ready by “by late February or early March,” according to Politico.
The real key to gun legislation passing after Newtown remains, of course, the Republican-controlled House where the future of even proposals that poll extremely well, like expanded background checks for firearms purchases, remains tenuous. But gun control advocates have said a speedy post-Newtown legislative push favors their side, so quick action by the Senate this week and signs of harmony in the chamber on gun violence will likely be seen as a victory for those seeking more regulation of firearms.
• White House Continues To Keep The Pressure
Obama is focused on immigration this week with a trip Tuesday to Las Vegas to tout his support for comprehensive reform.
But that doesn’t mean gun violence is taking a back seat. On Monday, Obama and Biden met with police chiefs from around the country — including communities affected by mass shootings over the past year — to talk about gun violence prevention. Advocates for gun control have said that law enforcement support for new regulations is key to pressuring waffling lawmakers to support them, and the White House meeting is a sign the administration agrees.