Obama’s charm offensive might not have affected votes on gun control legislation, but Republicans say it might contribute to deals on immigration and debt.
Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., who helped kill the gun measure despite personal pleas from former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., and her husband, Mark Kelly, is also one of the eight members of the bipartisan immigration overhaul group. He also said the defeat of the gun legislation shouldn’t be seen as a failure of the president’s charm offensive. “I still hope we can come to an agreement on the budget,” he said.
Sen. Patrick J. Toomey, R-Pa., a sponsor of the failed bipartisan compromise on expanded background checks for gun purchases, was less sanguine about reaching a deal on the budget, but he said that doesn’t mean the White House shouldn’t keep reaching out.
“One thing for sure is you never find common ground if you’re not having a conversation. ... I think we’re still very far apart. But I’m in favor of having conversations,” he said.
Still on the Move
Obama spokesman Josh Earnest also told reporters April 18 that the White House doesn’t see the gun defeat as affecting other pieces of his agenda, noting immigration as one area where legislation is moving forward.
“I don’t see any reason why anybody who’s taking a look at what’s happening in Congress right now should despair about the possibility for bipartisanship,” he said. “I think what the president is frustrated by, in reaction to the gun vote yesterday, was a willingness to willfully distort the facts that were included in that legislation, and as I mentioned, the outsized influence that’s being exercised by some special interests in Washington, D.C., and the unwillingness of some members of the United States Senate to stand up to them.”
As for Obama’s rebuke April 17 to the senators who blocked the gun bill — calling it a “shameful” day in Washington and one where lawmakers were intimidated by a lying gun lobby, Alexander brushed it off. “I think he’s entitled to express himself,” he said.
There remain big hurdles to any budget deal that meets the president’s requirement that it include new tax revenue from the wealthy — something GOP leaders insist they will not accept.
That could mean Obama’s hopes for a bold second-term agenda may rest with immigration, the one issue where a big, bipartisan compromise has been proposed with the support of leaders in both parties.
That momentum springs from the electoral drubbing Republicans suffered among Hispanics in last year’s elections and their interest in avoiding a repeat in 2014.