McConnell: Gun control ‘in a holding pattern’

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., joined at left by Sen. Todd Young, R-Ind., speaks to reporters during a news conference at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2019. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Six weeks after a pair of mass shootings killed more than 30 people, Congress remains “in a holding pattern” on gun control as lawmakers await proposals from the White House, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said.

While President Donald Trump has said he would veto a House-passed bill to expand background checks for gun purchases, McConnell said Tuesday he is hopeful there are other gun-related proposals that Congress can approve and Trump can support.

“I still await guidance from the White House as to what (Trump) thinks he’s comfortable signing,” the Kentucky Republican told reporters. “If and when that happens, then we’ll have a real possibility of actually changing the law and hopefully making some progress.”

Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said McConnell and Trump were blocking meaningful action on gun violence, adding, “This is the moment for the president to do something different and courageous.”

The New York Democrat said he wonders whether Trump will “rise to the occasion, or will he squander this opportunity as he always has done in the past?”

Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi warned Trump on Sunday that any proposal on gun control must include the House-passed bill to expand background checks. Pelosi and Schumer spoke with Trump by phone and said they made it clear any proposal that does not include the House legislation “will not get the job done” because dangerous loopholes will be left open.

Schumer said Tuesday he was “not encouraged by what the president said” but remained committed to pushing for stricter gun control measures. Senate Democrats planned to speak for hours on the Senate floor to urge passage of background checks and other measures in the wake of mass shootings in Texas and Ohio last month that left dozens of people dead.

Trump and White House aides have discussed a number of gun control measures with members of Congress, including steps to go after fraudulent buyers, notify state and local law enforcement when a potential buyer fails a background check, issue state-level emergency risk protection orders, boost mental health assistance and speed up executions for those found guilty of committing mass shootings.

Trump hopes to reveal something on gun control to the American public “very soon,” White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said Tuesday. The White House expects the gun proposal later this week or early next week, according to a person familiar with the administration’s thinking.

Attorney General William Barr and White House legislative affairs director Eric Ueland met with GOP senators Tuesday to talk about a path forward. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said background checks remained under discussion, but it was not clear whether progress was being made.

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said background checks did not come up during a lunch meeting Tuesday between Senate Republicans and Vice President Mike Pence.

Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., cautioned against overinterpreting the relative silence by the White House. “My guess is they’re still vetting ideas, proposals and kind of putting together their plan,” he said.

Sen. Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat who has helped lead a bipartisan push to expand background checks, said he had not spoken to Trump since late last week. Manchin said he considers a proposal he is offering with Pennsylvania Republican Sen. Pat Toomey a starting point for legislative action.

“You can’t water it down because that’s the bedrock,” Manchin said, adding that senators and the White House haven’t agreed on anything yet. “We’re just going to see where it goes,” he said.

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Associated Press writers Lisa Mascaro, Zeke Miller and Alan Fram contributed to this report.

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Copyright © 2019 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved

McConnell waiting on Trump to decide on any actions to control guns

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Congressional Republicans are waiting for the White House to chart a path forward on gun violence legislation, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday, effectively putting the burden on President Donald Trump to decide the GOP’s legislative response to the spate of mass shootings that included another deadly attack in Texas over the weekend.

Asked about prospects for a Senate vote on legislation passed by the Democratic-controlled House to expand background checks for gun purchases, McConnell said, “The administration is in the process of studying what they’re prepared to support, if anything.”

The Kentucky Republican said he expects an answer from the White House next week, adding that he wants to make sure that senators “would actually be making a law and not just having serial votes” on proposals to stem gun violence.

McConnell’s comments point to the challenge ahead as Congress returns to a gun debate that emerged during their summer recess, when mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio, left 31 people dead. While Trump has said he wants to work with Congress to “stop the menace of mass attacks,” he’s waffled on support for expanding background checks, making the next steps uncertain. Trump and other Republicans have talked of pursuing other measures to address mental health or codify “red flag” laws that allow guns to be taken from people who pose harm to themselves or others, but even those measures face skepticism among GOP lawmakers.

The dynamic appears unchanged even after a shooting rampage in West Texas over the weekend that killed at least seven people. The Texas gunman obtained his AR-style rifle through a private sale, allowing him to evade a federal background check that previously blocked him from getting a gun, a law enforcement official told The Associated Press. The official spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to discuss an ongoing investigation.

A bill passed by the House in February would require background checks on all gun sales, including those between strangers who meet online or at gun shows. The Senate has not taken up legislation, and McConnell appeared to set a high bar for Senate action when lawmakers return next week after a five-week recess. If Trump favors background checks or other legislation he has discussed publicly in recent weeks, and senators “know that if we pass it it’ll become law,” then he’ll put it on the Senate floor for a vote, McConnell told radio host Hugh Hewitt.

Trump in a tweet Tuesday urged Congress to “get back to work,” but omitted any reference to guns, focusing instead on prescription drug prices, healthcare and infrastructure.

Trump said Sunday that any gun measure must satisfy the competing goals of protecting public safety and the constitutional right to gun ownership.

“For the most part, sadly, if you look at the last four or five (shootings) going back even five or six or seven years … as strong as you make your background checks, they would not have stopped any of it,” Trump said. “So it’s a big problem. It’s a mental problem. It’s a big problem.”

Trump’s comments were reminiscent of his wavering last year, when he vowed to support background checks in the wake of a school shooting in Parkland, Florida, only to relent after receiving pressure from the National Rifle Association.

This time there seems to be more sustained momentum to produce some sort of measure after Trump asked aides to pull together a comprehensive list of ideas. White House officials have been meeting with lawmakers and congressional staff as they try to formulate a plan that Trump can support without risking backlash from his political base.

“We’re looking at a lot of different bills, ideas, concepts. It’s been going on for a long while,” Trump told reporters Sunday after returning to the White House from Camp David.

NRA head Wayne LaPierre has repeatedly spoken to Trump and warned him about losing support from NRA members. But White House aides contend the president’s base would stick with him regardless. They point to strong support for background checks among Republicans and gun owners and believe they can fashion a proposal that the gun lobby — while not supporting — may not vehemently oppose.

Among the proposals being considered: red flag laws, more money for mental health and making sure juvenile information gets into existing background checks. Additionally, White House aides have said Attorney General William Barr is drafting legislation to speed up the death penalty for mass shooters.

Sen. Chris Murphy, a leading gun control supporter, said Trump has told him personally that he remains committed to working on expanding background checks.

Even so, the Connecticut Democrat rates the chance of Congress actually approving anything at “less than 50-50,” especially if Trump appears willing “to give the NRA veto power” over legislation such as a bipartisan bill to expand background checks being pushed Sens. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., and Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.

“I am skeptical that these efforts are going to bear fruit. I think it’s very hard to negotiate with this White House when the president’s public positions seem to change by the day,” Murphy said last month. “I’m going to try … because the stakes are so high.”

As senators continue conversations, House Democrats are moving ahead on other bills, with the House Judiciary Committee set to consider a host of proposals to address gun violence at a hearing next week. The panel postponed a hearing originally scheduled Wednesday because of Hurricane Dorian.

The committee will consider bills to ban high-capacity magazines, establish a federal program for “red flag” laws and expand bans on firearm ownership to people convicted of certain hate crimes. The panel will also hold a hearing later this month on a bill to ban military-style assault weapons.

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Associated Press writers Michael Balsamo in Washington, Jonathan Lemire in New York and Jill Colvin in Dublin, Ireland, contributed to this story.

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Copyright © 2019 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved

Private Trump / McConnell emergency talk leaked

This Washington Post headline says it all:

“McConnell privately cautions Trump about emergency declaration on border wall”

This is how the HUFFPOST titled their story about the Washington Post revelation: “McConnell Reportedly Warns Trump Off Emergency Tactic Amid Possible GOP Revolt.”

The details about McConnell privately warning Trump that there are likely enough votes in the Senate to oppose his declaration of a national emergency to build the wall which will force him to issue his first ever VETO are important though this is already public knowledge. Briefly:

In order to overturn a presidential national security declaration the law allows it to be terminated if both houses of Congress pass a resolution to do so.  Because the Democrats control the House they would easily pass their resolution. There are enough GOP senators who have expressed opposition to Trump declaring a national emergency to achieve the simple majority required to pass it .

Trump could and most likely would veto the resolution. It would be a tough road for both the House and Senate to put together the super-majority vote needed to override the president.

Just as important and most curiously is that this private meeting went public. We have no idea why this occurred.

It seems doubtful that Trump would have leaked what transpired in a one on one conversation with Senator McConnell. The Republicans who told The Washington Post about the meeting requested anonymity.

The Post reports that “McConnell’s top deputy, Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), told GOP senators at a private lunch that same day that if they had issues with the president’s declaring a national emergency, they should raise them with the White House, according to one of the Republicans and another person with knowledge of Thune’s comments, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe them.”

The mystery then is who and why this has been made public.

Did Mitch McConnell direct someone to contact the paper to send a message to President Trump?

Or did other Republicans do this on their own without clearing it with the Senate Majority Leader?

One thing is certain. There are at least some Republican senators who are trying to send a message to Donald Trump well in advance of his State of the Union Address when he could use his national prime time audience to declare a national emergency.

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Trump’s deadly and dangerous disease threatens us all

We knew Trump would be a disaster as president, but we didn’t know that he would bring to Washington a disease as deadly and contagious as cholera. It is a disease that has led the international community of democratic nations to want to quarantine us until a cure can be found.

Trump promised to drain the swamp. Many Democrats and anti-Trump Republicans have repeatedly noted that he did the opposite. However, as a former cranberry grower with a 50 acre swamp in his backyard I can say that swamps don’t really stink. They actually filter water into the aquifer. A swamp is a self-regulating ecosystem as long as nonindigenous species, plants or animals, aren’t introduced (for example pythons in the Everglades).

When Trump moved into Washington he was a member of an alien species bent on destroying the norms of government and we now think enabling the Putin agenda. Like a queen carpenter ant, he hatched and continues to hatch hoards of underlings.They are chewing away the pillars of our republic. Where’s Orkin when you need them?

The elected Tea Party Republicans enabled him, and other Republicans who saw him as a means to advancing their agenda while ignoring the fact that he was a demented destructor of democratic norms and rational decision-making.

Aside from the 99.99% surety that Trump was either a willful or witless tool of Putin, we see almost every day that he has the reverse Midas touch, everything and everyone coming close to him turns into a ghoul.

In no particular order here are some of the stories out in the last day or two not having to do with William Barr which show how Trump has attracted the worst of the worst to Washington, and has enabled their worst instincts to flourish.

This example doesn’t have to do with William Barr per se, but rather this is about Lindsay Graham during the Barr hearing. Wednesday he questioned Derrick Johnson, the president and CEO of the NAACP. Johnson had testified that William Barr’s views on race and discrimination were “singularly disqualifying.” First he attached the NAACP for being too partisan and being allied with the Democratic party. Graham feigned puzzlement as to why Republicans got such low ratings. Graham has the highest NAACP rating at 22%. “I disagree with your scorecard rating, that I’m not a racist and I certainly don’t know how to close this gap — I’d like to,” he said,  adding “you got to ask yourself, why does every conservative on this committee — the best I can do is to get 22?” (Graham quotes from RawStory) 22%! This must mean the NAACP is prejudiced against Republicans not of whom have a racist bone in their bodies.

Mitch McConnell hiding his nasty self behind senatorial decorum still shows what the hidden beast beneath the surface really looks like. He says in so many words that Nancy Pelosi doesn’t care about the nation’s security saying it takes “a back seat to the political whims of the far left. Here in the Senate my Democratic colleagues have an important choice to make. They could stand with common sense border experts, with federal workers and with their own past voting records, by the way, or they could continue to remain passive spectators complaining from the sidelines, as the Speaker refuses to negotiate with the White House,” McConnell said from the Senate floor. (The Hill)

Moving to lesser Trump players, we have his appointment as acting-EPA director who only qualification is having been a coal (how can we forget “beautiful clean coal”) company lobbyist denying climate change, and the why am I not surprised revelation that Karen Pence is teaching at a so-called Christian which discriminates against LGBTQ people in its job application and says LGBTQ kids aren’t welcome.

We have news that a “self-described white supremacist, who harassed Vermont state lawmaker Ruqaiyah “Kiah” Morris with so many racist messages that she resigned her post last fall, showed up at a press conference on Monday where she was speaking about that harassment.” (HUFFPOST)

Then learn from the Washington Post that a new lightning rod for hate, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, prompted conservative commentator Candace Owens to write “was so fiscally irresponsible that she hadn’t saved up enough money to rent an apartment in the Washington D.C. area.” If this wasn’t enough “Republicans Ed Rollins and Rush Limbaugh recently dismissed Ocasio-Cortez as a ‘little girl'” and added a racial dog whistle calling the woman of Puerto Rican descent “some young uppity.” “The Washington Examiner’s Eddie Scarry tweeted a photo of her in November and wrote that she doesn’t ‘look like a girl who struggles.’ The Daily Caller promoted what it described as a possible ‘nude selfie’ of her last week before walking back its headline” which was fake.

No list would be complete without mentioning Steve King who felt enabled to push his envelope of hate further and further because in Trump-world being a white nationalist is a badge of honor. Finally stripped of his committee memberships by House Republicans he’ll remain until the end of his term knowing in his black heart of hearts that he has many colleagues who feel the same way he does.

Here’s another example of racists feeling empowered. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) included a group called the Center for Immigration Studies  (CIS) in its watch list of hate groups since 2016, following what it called the group’s “repeated circulation of white nationalist and antisemitic writers.” They are now suing the SPLC saying that they “oppose higher levels of immigration for sound public policy reasons, not because of any animus toward immigrants as human beings.” Read more about this in The Daily Beast.

And then there’s national park wrecker and Interior Department megalomanic Ryan Zinke who managed to find a golden parachute on the way out of the White House. He snagged a job which he appears to be as unqualified for as he was for his previous job. He’s now a senior vice president for the blockchain investment firm Artillery One, a company which has expressed a lack of concern with any ethical questions about hiring him. “Zinke, who in the past has  touted his bachelor’s degree in geology, will be making his first appearance for the firm at a cryptocurrency conference in St. Moritz, Switzerland.” (Think Progress)

Trump’s disease has even infected part of the usually removed from political influence General Services Administration (GSA). They admitted they gave Trump a pass by ignoring his potential violation of the Constitution, for failing to consider whether the lease of the Old Post Office Building to create the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C. violated the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution.

I suppose they could be excused because of the way Attorney General nominee William Barr responded when Diane Feinstein asked him about evidence that Trump profited personally from being president, tacking on to her question “… including the emoluments clause of the Constitution.”

Barr’s answer was astounding:  “I … Well … I think there’s a dispute about what the emoluments clause relates to. I had not personally researched the emoluments clause. I can’t even tell you what it says at this point.” (Read more in AlterNet)

Here’s one from the bottom of page six which still shows how Trump and his minions way of denying the obvious has moved into show business. Racist Roseanne Barr is now claiming ‘a large part’ of the reason she was fired is because she’s Jewish.

While on the subject of show business, I would be remiss is passing over this new story about Darla Shine, wife of former Fox News executive Bill Shine who was hired as Trump’s deputy chief of staff for communications. RawStory reports that “on January 15 called CNN host Erin Burnett “pompous” after the anchor said comments that First Lady Melania Trump should make salads are ‘sexist.’” She also complained over the weekend that she was “put in 24 hour Twitter jail” for calling Trump mistress Stormy Daniels a “skank.” This came from the wife of the man who enabled a culture of sexual harrassment to exist at Fox News.

Moving up the White House food chain literally to the man who, if he avoids being impeached along with Trump as he should be, is a travesty of insensitivity coming from the pasty faced sycophant-in-chief. You’ve seen him in dozens of photographs. He’s is always pictured standing behind Trump standing to his right gazing at the back of his head as if he’s seeing the face of Jesus in his orange hair. The vice president made the news today with the empathy and sensitivity of a Trump.

Mike Pence claimed ISIS was defeated hours after it killed US troops in Syria (VOX) my quotes without further comment:

Vice President Mike Pence on Wednesday proudly proclaimed to an audience of America’s most senior diplomats that “ISIS has been defeated” and “the caliphate has crumbled.”

Yet he failed to mention that just hours before, ISIS had claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing in Syria that killed at least 15 people, including several US military service members.


The carnage didn’t deter Pence from making his triumphant speech earlier in the day, though, even though he had reportedly been briefed on the attack beforehand.

Describing Trump’s “America First” foreign policy, Pence also told the audience, “No longer will the United States government pursue grandiose, unrealistic notions at the expense of the American people. Instead, President Trump is putting our nation’s security and prosperity first, and he always will.

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Memo to McConnell: You bought him, you own him

Supposedly Mitch McConnell is working behind the scene to end the shutdown. Time Magazine notes that  he “boasted in 2014 that he was “the guy that gets us out of shutdowns” — and that he “has a long record of cutting the Gordian knot of legislative gridlock, especially, like now, when it’s a crisis of the GOP’s own making.”

I never thought McConnell could give a hoot about the wall. Time author Phillip Elliot writes:

McConnell recognizes things are getting bad. Personally, he is indifferent to the necessity of the wall, which Trump promised during the campaign, but he recognizes the politics of it can be helpful for firing up the GOP’s hardline base. In 2020, McConnell’s fellow Republicans will be defending 22 seats, and many of them are in states that may prove tricky, like Arizona and Colorado.

Let’s assume McConnell, whether he uttered these word or not, does think that things are getting bad.

Let’s do a little parsing of the four words above:

Things:

Is this merely the government shutdown or does the word mean the aggregate accumulation of Trump’s outrageous behaviors. This behavior includes but isn’t limited to his infantile outbursts. Some of these merely prove to anyone who has any sense that he is unqualified to be president. More important though, others are decisions made on impulse through a Tweet. Some of these have had to be walked back by officials who actually had information about the subject he thinks he’s an expert on?

What else would be on McConnell’s list of “things?” Perhaps, oh say, 10% of the 7,000 times Trump has lied? That’s 700, but say he’s bothered by only 1% of the lies The Washington Post – a newspaper no doubt he and everyone in Washington reads every day – has called him out on. This is 70 lies.

Could McConnell be troubled by knowing that many of the words used to describe Trump suggest that he is mentally ill and even if he wasn’t he is unfit to be president. In September 2017 a poll listed the 10 most common words used to describe him were “incompetent,” “arrogant,” “strong,” “idiot,” “egotistical,” “ignorant,” “great,” “racist,” “asshole” and “narcissistic.”

This is from Time Magazine (May 10, 2017):

What do the words idiot, incompetent, leader, and liar all have in common? According to a new poll, they are some of the first words that come to many people’s minds when thinking about President Donald Trump.

A new Quinnipiac University survey of 1,078 voters across the nation has found that words like incompetent; liar; leader; unqualified; president; strong; businessman; ignorant; egotistical; and asshole are some of those most commonly associated with the president.

I assume that if a poll were to be conducted today words like corrupt and even treasonous would be on it.

Are

For the grammarians, “are” is the present tense of the word be.

This should be easy. Things are only getting bad now? He must have realized that things were bad months, perhaps a year ago. If not, I am tempted to say he was like an ostrich with his head in the sand (resisting a turtle simile).

Getting

Continuing with my parsing, “getting” means entering or reaching a specified state or condition. In this sentence it refers to “bad.” It means that “things” or to elaborate “the situation with Trump” are in the process of entering or reaching the level of being “bad.”

Again, if McConnell thinks this is a new he is delusional, so let’s move on and consider just what does “bad” mean?

Bad

This is the fun part, fun that is if you enjoy watching zombie movies where the zombies win.

Bad presumably means Trump has become so irrational, so destructive of the norms of governing and treating his allies in Congress with any respect, that he has made McConnell’s job of controlling his own Senate Republicans precarious.  McConnell has to be thinking about an insurrection among GOP senators facing a tough reelection battle in 2020 and a Romney revolt with the newly ensconced freshman Utah senator eying a run for president.

McConnell must be thinking about what the Mueller report will reveal. He and whether the next two years will bring a torrent of bad news for Republicans not only in the Senate but in the House and across the country as they watch public opinion shift inextricably in favor of impeachment. This could lead to a “throw the bums out” sentiment among voters.

He also has to be wondering about, to put it colloquially, just what the limits of Trump’s manifest and obvious craziness is. Aside from the threat of impeachment, the 25th Amendment solution always lurks in the shadows and emerges every time Trump’s behavior prompts his media critics and therapists who are members of the duty to warn group (among them yours truly) to try to sound the alarm that no matter what else anyone thinks about Trump’s agenda, he is psychiatrically unfit to be president, and that he is de-compensating  (failing to generate effective psychological coping mechanisms in response to stress resulting in a severe personality disturbance) so much he is actually dangerous.

My message to Mitch McConnell is that you made a huge mistake in buying this president. You knew you were purchasing him warts and all but you anted the “all” and didn’t realize the “warts” were malignant and could at any time aggressively metastasize.

Mitch, it is time to admit it to yourself and figure out how to save face and take him to the return department and trade him in.

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