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Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. paid a House call to Senate Democrats’ weekly policy lunch Thursday, pushing the president’s gun control agenda and calling the implementation of stricter gun laws a political “no brainer.”
Words come easier to Biden in a mob of reporters, however, than they do to Senate Democratic leaders when they craft legislative text.
Democrats have taken their first steps toward legislation by holding Senate Judiciary Committee hearings, but the timeline for an actual bill, whatever that might look like, is unclear. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has said he would like any gun violence bill to move through the committee in regular order, something that would happen perhaps at the same time the panel considers a massive immigration overhaul.
Biden, who was tasked by President Barack Obama to craft the administration’s gun policy, visited his old stomping ground to remind his colleagues that gun control is a top priority of Obama’s, even if the caucus hasn’t come forward with a clear strategy to proceed and handfuls of members are reluctant to touch gun control at all.
“The visual image of those 20 little children being riddled with bullets has not only traumatized the nation but ... it’s like the straw that broke the camel’s back,” Biden told reporters after meeting with Democrats in the Mansfield Room, right off the Senate floor. “I made the case for not only assault weapons but for the entire set of recommendations the president laid out.”
Of course, the assault weapons ban, introduced in the Senate by Democrat Dianne Feinstein of California, likely will be the toughest piece of any gun control package to get approved, if it gets a vote at all.
The Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday had its first hearing on the gun control issue and though there were some emotional moments — former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., gave brief and unexpected comments just more than two years after being shot in the head — Democrats only hinted at how they might proceed legislatively.
Sen. Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., was one of the most aggressive questioners of the session, going after the National Rifle Association’s Wayne LaPierre in the most contentious exchange of the four-hour hearing. But by Thursday, Durbin was more subdued, conceding that there might be room for a bipartisan deal on background checks and mental health but not much more.