Patrick J Toomey

Gun laws may not be changing, but the gun debate certainly is
Fewer and fewer elected Democrats fret much anymore about taking on the NRA

Students march to the Capitol in April 2018, calling on Congress to act on gun violence prevention. Gun control groups have spent more than $1.2 million on federal lobbying so far this year, keeping them on pace to spend the most they ever have. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

ANALYSIS — That almost nothing has changed in federal gun policy since Newtown or Parkland or any mass shooting before or after belies the enormous transformation underway in the lobbying and political landscapes of the issue.

Gun safety groups now operate a lot more like their opponents: amassing a national network of grassroots activists that descend on Capitol Hill and show up in lawmakers’ districts; spending big on political campaigns; and retaining some of the biggest names on K Street, firms that also represent the likes of Amazon and Goldman Sachs.

AG Barr takes temperature of Senate GOP on gun background checks
But there's still confusion about what President Donald Trump will ultimately support

Attorney General William Barr spent a second day on Capitol Hill speaking with Congressional members about gun legislation. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

Attorney General William Barr continued to take the temperature of Republican senators on expanding background checks Wednesday after a working document started circulating publicly.

“As the president has made clear he’s interested in exploring meaningful solutions that will actually protect people, make people safer,” the attorney general said. “And I’m up here just kicking around some ideas, getting perspectives, so I can be in a better position to advise the president. The president has made no decision yet on these issues.”

Ted Cruz: A Trump deal with Democrats on gun control could lead conservatives to stay home in 2020
Depressed turnout ‘could go a long way to electing a President Elizabeth Warren,’ Texas Republican says

Sen. Ted Cruz is warning Republicans against deals with Democrats on guns that could depress conservative turnout in next year’s elections. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Sen. Ted Cruz is warning that President Donald Trump making a deal with Democrats on gun legislation might cause conservative voters to stay home in 2020.

“If Republicans abandon the Second Amendment and demoralize millions of Americans who care deeply about Second Amendment rights,” the Texas Republican said, “that could go a long way to electing a President Elizabeth Warren.”

Trump closes in on background check decision, key senators say

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W. Va., and two other senators spoke to Trump about a deal on background checks for gun sales. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

President Donald Trump may soon announce whether he will support a yet-to-be-written Senate bill expanding background checks for commercial gun sales, a bipartisan group of senators said Wednesday.

Trump spoke for about 45 minutes by phone with the trio of members at the center of background check talks. Sens. Joe Manchin III, D-W.Va., Patrick J. Toomey, R-Pa., and Christopher S. Murphy, D-Conn., told reporters the president discussed options for securing a potential deal.

Five candidates on list to replace ‘Mr. Tough Guy’ John Bolton, Trump says
President mocks former national security adviser day after he was fired or quit, depending on the source

President Donald Trump gives a thumbs up as he departs the Capitol in "The Beast" in March. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

President Donald Trump said Wednesday he is looking closely at five candidates to replace hawkish John Bolton — whom he mocked — a day after he abruptly fired Bolton from his role as national security adviser.

“We have a lot of good people who want that position. … We’ll have five people who want it very much,” Trump told reporters after an unrelated event at the White House. “We’ll be announcing somebody next week.”

Road Ahead: Will Congress, Trump agree to any new gun laws?
Environment legislation and appropriations will highlight the week while senators wait for the president

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is waiting to hear from President Donald Trump before moving on new gun legislation. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Will Congress do anything about gun violence in September?

That question will be front and center as the House and Senate return to legislative business this week, even if the answer to the question may come down to one man on the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue: President Donald Trump.

Trump says McConnell ‘totally on board’ with background checks
President dismisses possibility of NRA opposition to legislation

President Donald Trump says Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is “totally on board” with “intelligent background checks,” but a Senate aide says McConnell hasn’t endorsed “anything specific.” (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

President Donald Trump on Friday gave perhaps his strongest endorsement yet of a background checks overhaul bill for firearms purchases, and predicted Republican lawmakers would “lead” on the issue despite opposition from the National Rifle Association.

“Frankly, we need intelligent background checks. This isn’t a question of NRA, Republican or Democrat. I spoke to [Senate Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell yesterday. ... He is totally on board,” the president told reporters as he left the White House for a 10-day working vacation.

Emotional Portman hopes for consensus on combating gun violence after Dayton, El Paso mass shootings
Ohio Republican, at the Capitol on Tuesday, appeared shaken by deaths

Ohio Sen. Rob Portman was back at the Capitol on Tuesday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Ohio Republican Rob Portman said Tuesday that after seeing blood being cleaned from sidewalks in Dayton, he hopes his fellow senators can emerge from their predictable partisan corners to find agreement on more legislation to address gun violence.

Portman pointed to working on “red flag” grants to encourage states to  keep firearms from individuals with mental health challenges as perhaps the most immediate step. Asked about an expanded background check bill sponsored by Pennsylvania Republican Patrick J. Toomey and West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin III, Portman said, “I think we should look at everything.”

Gun safety theatrics could come to Congress during Tuesday pro forma sessions
Neither House nor Senate expected to return any time soon

Pennsylvania Sen. Patrick J. Toomey says an immediate vote on his background checks bill would be “counterproductive.” (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Updated 4:45 p.m. | Democratic lawmakers itching for action on gun safety legislation will get their first chances to make some noise on Tuesday.

That’s when the House and Senate are scheduled to begin holding pro forma sessions, with no legislative business expected in either chamber until a full week after Labor Day in September. However, there’s a long history of members of Congress using the brief moments when the floors of the two chambers open for business during the August recess to engage in a bit of theater.

GOP senators uneasy with Fed pick on gold, deposit insurance
Questioning a return to the gold standard and eliminating federal deposit insurance

“I'm not convinced we should switch to a gold standard anytime soon,” said Sen. Patrick J. Toomey, R-Pa., (File photo by Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Republican senators have expressed concerns about Judy Shelton, one of President Donald Trump’s picks for the Federal Reserve Board, over her support for a return to the gold standard and eliminating federal deposit insurance, but, so far, are holding back from publicly opposing her nomination.

Trump tweeted his intention in early July to nominate Shelton and Christopher Waller to the two vacant seats on the seven-member Fed board. Waller, an economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, is seen by most observers as a conventional pick, but Shelton’s decades-long advocacy for resurrecting the Bretton Woods monetary system has put her at odds with most economists and some Republican senators. The system pegged the dollar to the price of gold and other currencies to the dollar.