What to Know in Washington: Senators Say Gun Talks Inch Forward

  • Negotiators claim progress on guns but fear failure
  • House agenda includes guns, water projects, FDA fees

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A bipartisan group of US senators continues to move forward on negotiating limited measures to help prevent mass shootings, though a deal is far from assured, senators involved in the talks from both parties said on Sunday.

“There are intensive discussions underway,” Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “It includes people who have not been engaged on this issue in the past. I certainly can’t guarantee any outcome but it feels to me like we are closer than we’ve been since I’ve been in the Senate.”

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) who along with Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) is leading the bipartisan talks, also said the group is “closer than ever before” to a package of gun measures that can meet the 60-vote threshold needed to overcome a filibuster in the Senate.

“As late as last night, we were engaged in conversations,” Murphy said on CNN’s “State of the Union,” though he remains “anxious about failure.”

House Democrats have proposed a package of gun legislation that would raise the minimum age to purchase some semiautomatic rifles to 21 from 18. There have also been calls for a federal “red flag” law that would allow courts to temporarily take away guns from people because of mental health concerns.

Murphy said one focus of the Senate talks is negotiating measures to identify people in the 18- to 21-year-old age range that could present a danger and prevent them from acquiring guns.

Senators in the group are examining how “to make sure that we aren’t giving a weapon to anybody that has during their younger years a mental health history, a juvenile record. Often those juvenile records aren’t accessible when they walk into the gun store buying as an adult,” Murphy said. Mike Dorning has the latest on the talks.

Happening on the Hill

CONGRESSIONAL SCHEDULE:

  • The Senate is back at 3 p.m. with a vote set on Biden’s nominee to oversee Air Force personnel.
  • House lawmakers return tomorrow for legislative business.

It’s crunch time for House Democrats. The three-week June D.C. work period, one of the last before the November elections, is crammed with a wide array of legislation. Gun control legislation is front and center this week, according to a letter from Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.). In addition to previously announced bills on red flag laws and raising the age for some gun purchases, the House will take up a resolution from Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.) condemning a White nationalist conspiracy theory on ethnic replacement espoused by several mass shooters.

The House is also scheduled to vote on two bills under an expedited process requiring a two-thirds majority: the bipartisan Water Resources Development Act and the reauthorization of Food and Drug Administration user fees. Emily Wilkins has the full agenda.

The Senate Banking Committee will vote on Michael Barr’s nomination to be vice chair for supervision of the Federal Reserve on June 8, according to a statement. The committee will also vote that day on the nominations of Jaime Lizarraga and Mark Uyeda to be members of the Securities and Exchange Commission, Megan Howard reports.

Schools and child-feeding sites are bracing for rising costs and supply disruptions as federal meal subsidies run out in weeks. The food assistance, in the form of Agriculture Department waivers authorized since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, allows schools and child-feeding programs to distribute meals free to kids regardless of family income, and receive federal reimbursement. The waivers expire June 30—barring congressional action to renew them. Read more from Maeve Sheehey.

The US needs to move toward a more reliable way to pay for the nation’s highways and bridges, and will be ready for a vehicle miles-traveled fee in five years, according to House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chair Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.). The recently enacted infrastructure law (Public Law 117-58) included more than $100 billion to bail out the Highway Trust Fund, and about $125 million to pilot a national miles-traveled fee and more state mileage tax programs. Read more from Lillianna Byington.

Members of the Congressional Black Caucus met with senior aides to Biden on Friday to press their case for canceling at least some federal student loan debt, according to a person familiar with the matter. The Black Caucus publicly called on Biden last month to use executive authority to forgive student loan debt, joining many Democratic lawmakers that have lobbied the president to take action before the midterm elections. Read more from Jarrell Dillard and Nancy Cook.

There’s one certainty in the race to be the House Ways and Means Committee’s top Republican next Congress: Whoever wins will seek to make permanent various temporary tax cuts passed as part of the 2017 tax law. The three Republicans vying for the top spot on the influential tax-writing panel have all identified setting in stone expiring portions of the 2017 tax law that would otherwise sunset as a top priority if they lead the committee. Read more from Colin Wilhelm and Kaustuv Basu.

Three Democratic lawmakers from New York and New Jersey are urging the Treasury Department and IRS to roll back regulations that block certain state workarounds to the cap on the federal state and local tax deduction, Naomi Jagoda reports.

Public support for a proposal that would trigger a referendum to determine Puerto Rico’s political future will be key to forcing the measure through the US Senate where it faces stiff Republican resistance, Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), said. Jim Wyss has the full story.

Elections & Politics

California, New Jersey Lead Busiest 2022 Primary Day on Tuesday: Primary voting returns with a vengeance Tuesday. The elections across seven states and spanning 78 congressional districts are led by California, the nation’s most populous state. It marks the busiest day of voting in 2022 before the Nov. 8 general election, with voters selecting general-election nominees in almost one-fifth of the 435 House districts. Greg Grioux has a preview of Tuesday’s races.

Former Bridgewater Associates Chief Executive David McCormick conceded the Republican US Senate race in Pennsylvania to celebrity physician Mehmet Oz, saying an automatic recount underway wouldn’t change the outcome. McCormick said at an event in Pittsburgh on Friday that he called Oz to congratulate him on being the winner of the fiercely contested primary. Mark Niquette has the latest.

Pennsylvania’s Democratic Senate nominee John Fetterman released a letter from his cardiologist saying he’s fit to run and serve in the US Senate if he follows health advice after a stroke sidelined him for the final days of his primary campaign, Gregory Korte reports.

Former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows won’t be indicted for defying subpoenas by the special congressional committee investigating the deadly Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol, a major blow to the panel as it seeks cooperation of associates of former President Donald Trump. Chris Strohm and Billy House have more.

  • Former White House trade adviser Peter Navarro accused the government of misconduct during an initial court appearance Friday and told a judge his arrest was mishandled, saying federal agents waited until he boarded a plane before putting him in handcuffs and taking him into custody, even though he had earlier offered to assist the government. Navarro, who was indicted for defying a subpoena by the congressional committee investigating the Capitol attack, was released without bail with his next court appearance scheduled for June 17. Chris Strohm, Billy House and Sabrina Willmer report.
  • As Congress prepares for a series of televised hearings on the assault starting Thursday, polls show the Republican party is on track to make big gains in midterm elections despite fielding candidates who embrace the false narrative of election fraud that fueled the riot and shun efforts to investigate the attack. Read more from Mike Dorning and Billy House.

Around the Administration

BIDEN’S AGENDA:

  • The president has no public events scheduled.
  • Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre holds a briefing at 2:30 p.m.

Biden will take executive action to boost the US solar sector, seeking to revive clean energy projects stalled by a trade dispute and bolster domestic manufacturing so the nation’s climate efforts are less reliant on foreign suppliers. He plans to invoke the Defense Production Act to provide support for US-made solar panels, said people familiar with the matter, who asked for anonymity to discuss private details before a public announcement expected as soon as Monday, Jennifer A. Dlouhy and Ari Natter report.

Janet Yellen denied advocating for a smaller American Rescue Plan than the $1.9 trillion package proposed by the Biden administration and passed by Congress in early 2021, after an advance copy of a book about the Treasury secretary showed she initially urged scaling it back by a third. Christopher Condon has more on the preview.

Commerce Chief Gina Raimondo said it “may make sense” to lift some tariffs. “Steel and aluminum—we’ve decided to keep some of those tariffs because we need to protect American workers and we need to protect our steel industry; it’s a matter of national security,” Raimondo said in an interview Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “There are other products — household goods, bicycles—it may make sense,” she said, when asked if the administration would consider ending duties on billions of dollars of imports from China. Read more from Ana Monteiro.

The Department of Justice is launching its third attempt at convincing a jury that some chicken manufacturing executives violated federal antitrust law by colluding to fix prices. The trial against current and former executives of Tyson Foods, Pilgrim’s Pride, and other companies, which starts Monday in the US District Court for the District of Colorado, underscores the DOJ antitrust regulators’ insistence on seeing their claims through to the end— despite skepticism from industry proponents and even the court’s judge. Read more from Dan Papscun.

Abbott restarted infant formula production at a facility in Michigan, months after its closure on health grounds exacerbated a national shortage of food for very young children. The company met the Food and Drug Administration’s initial requirements under a pact reached last month, Abbott said in a blog post Saturday. A spokesperson also confirmed that the plant — one of four facilities in the US — is restarting baby formula production. Read more from Amelia Pollard and Susanne Barton.

The Biden administration has made a final decision against inviting the governments of Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua to a regional summit this week, bucking calls from Mexico’s president to include all countries or risk him staying home, Eric Martin reports.

North Korea fired eight short-range ballistic missiles Sunday, hitting a record number of launches in a single year under Kim Jong Un. US envoy for North Korea policy Sung Kim, along with his South Korean and Japanese counterparts, strongly denounced the latest launches, but they might not have much leverage in trying to slow down the tests or ratchet up global sanctions to punish Pyongyang. Read more from Sophie Jackman and Sangmi Cha.

The chances for Tehran and Washington to salvage the Iran nuclear deal are “shrinking,” the European Union’s foreign policy chief said in a tweet on Saturday. Josep Borrell said the agreement can still be salvaged with “extra effort,” adding that he discussed multi-party nuclear talks with Iran’s foreign minister, Hossein Amirabdollahian. Arsalan Shahla has the latest on the talks.

To contact the reporters on this story: Michaela Ross in Washington at mross@bgov.com; Giuseppe Macri in Washington at gmacri@bgov.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Loren Duggan at lduggan@bgov.com; Andrew Small at asmall@bgov.com

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