President Biden, fresh from his visit to Uvalde, Texas, a day earlier, called on “rational” Senate Republicans on Monday to nudge lawmakers toward a deal on gun restrictions as the tragic deaths of 19 students and two teachers continue to move the nation.
On Sunday, Biden promised Uvalde residents that he would move to pass legislation to combat gun violence and take action unilaterally where he can. A day later, the president made an overt appeal to Republicans who could be in the mood for some change, telling reporters that he alone cannot adequately respond to the shootings with the strike of a pen.
“I can’t dictate this stuff. I can do the things I’ve done and any executive action I can take, I’ll continue to take. But I can’t outlaw a weapon. I can’t change a background check. I can’t do that,” Biden said upon returning to the White House from a Memorial Day commemoration event.
“I think things have gotten so bad that everybody is getting more rational about it” (The Hill).
Biden added that he considers Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who holds the key to unlocking GOP support for any package, and Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), a top McConnell ally who has been dispatched for talks with Democrats on the subject, among the rational thinkers. He said he had not spoken with GOP lawmakers (The Hill).
But the specifics of where things go from here will have to wait. Lawmakers are out of town for the Memorial Day break and return to work early next week, though a bipartisan Senate working group is set to meet today to discuss a possible legislative response (The Hill).
Among the leading topics being discussed surround so-called red flag laws that would allow police and other authorities to confiscate weapons from individuals who are considered a public threat. What is seemingly not on the table is any bill that would increase the age limits for those purchasing a gun or imposing a waiting period on long gun purchases (The Washington Post).
▪ The New York Times: In the Senate, chasing an ever-elusive gun law deal.
▪ The Associated Press: Empty spaces, broken hearts in a Texas town gutted by loss.
At the state level, however, there is an effort underway to hold firearms manufacturers legally liable for instances of gun violence. As The Hill’s Harper Neidig writes, Democratic state legislatures have shown a renewed interest in the idea, which could include widening the industry’s liability with new laws.
Adding fuel to the fire behind the possibility is the recent landmark settlement between families affected by the Sandy Hook school shooting and Remington Arms, a move that could embolden other potential plaintiffs. California swiftly moved a package that would open firearm manufacturers to civil legal liability to a certain extent.
“California will not stand by as kids across the country are gunned down,” California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) said following the Texas school shooting. “Guns are now the leading cause of death for kids in America. While the U.S. Senate stands idly by and activist federal judges strike down commonsense gun laws across our nation, California will act with the urgency this crisis demands.”
© Associated Press / Wong Maye-E | Mourners outside Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.
▪ The Hill: Democrats ramp up offense on abortion, guns.
▪ Niall Stanage: The Memo: Guns and abortion threaten to become midterm issues.
However, there could be yet another setback for those pushing for gun restrictions, as the Supreme Court is set to issue its first major Second Amendment opinion in more than a decade.
As The Hill’s John Kruzel notes, justices are expected to rule in the coming days or weeks in a pending dispute over New York state’s tight limits on the concealed carry of handguns. While it’s unclear just how broadly the conservative majority may rule, the restrictive New York law is likely to be invalidated in a decision that could have ramifications for gun control efforts across the country, according to experts.
▪ The Washington Post: Texas’s romance with guns tested by Uvalde massacre.
▪ The Associated Press: Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) bets the Uvalde mass shooting will shake up the Texas governor’s race.
▪ The Hill: NRA reelects Wayne LaPierre as CEO, Charles Cotton as president.
Virtual Event Invite
As a valued subscriber to our newsletters, you’re invited to become a Hill Insider and unlock exclusive benefits, including original content, invitations to special events like Q&As with The Hill’s journalists and early access to new digital features.
Join now — it’s free! — and we’ll automatically sign you up for the next event in our monthly Insider series: Battle for Control of the Senate, Thursday, June 2 at 12 p.m. ET. Sign up here.
LEADING THE DAY
➤ UKRAINE CRISIS
To make Russia’s war with Ukraine painful enough to persuade Russian President Vladimir Putin to relent, the leverage must be petroleum and natural gas, Western powers have said for months. At a summit in Brussels on Monday, the European Union agreed to cut 90 percent of Russian oil imports brought in by sea by the end of this year. It is the toughest sanction levied thus far on Moscow by the 27-nation bloc (Reuters and The Associated Press). Hungary, which refused to go along, will be granted a temporary exemption for pipeline imports of crude.
The New York Times: The EU embargo will bruise Russia’s oil industry, but for now, it’s doing fine.
Russia suggested it will find other buyers for its oil. Referring to a comment by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, Russian diplomat Mikhail Ulyanov said via Twitter, “As she rightly said yesterday, #Russia will find other importers” (CNBC).
Nations fear that Russia’s war is triggering a global food crisis as Ukraine’s grain exports are blocked at ports the Kremlin controls. The EU worked Monday and into Tuesday to assemble a support package that might get grain unstuck from ports and for the reconstruction of Ukraine. They agreed today on a $9.7 billion package of assistance to be delivered this year (The New York Times).
The grain impact is being felt in Africa and beyond (The Associated Press). Countries on the African continent imported 44 percent of their wheat from Russia and Ukraine between 2018 and 2020, according to United Nations figures. The African Development Bank is already reporting a 45 percent increase in wheat prices on the continent, making everything from couscous in Mauritania to the fried donuts sold in Congo more expensive for customers.
NBC News: Europe’s lost “breadbasket”: How Russia’s war in Ukraine is stoking a global food crisis.
In remarks to reporters on Monday at the White House, Biden ruled out sending to Ukraine long-range rockets (The Hill). “We are not going to send to Ukraine rocket systems that strike into Russia,” the president said.
His denial conflicts with reporting by CNN and The Washington Post that the administration was poised to provide Ukraine with the Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS), a U.S.-made system that can fire rockets up to 300 kilometers, allowing Ukrainian forces to strike into Russian territory.
Does Putin suffer from disease or is he being treated for serious health conditions at age 69? There have been rumors among diplomats and Kremlin-watchers about the president’s changed appearance (puffy face), his determination to use force to try to restore Soviet-era territory to Russia, and his elaborate COVID-19 precautions in public during the height of the pandemic. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov denied the Russian president is ill (Politico).
“I don’t think sane people can discern any sort of symptom of disease in this man,” Lavrov told French media during an interview.
The Kremlin previously denied reporting by Russian investigative outlet Proekt in April that Putin suffers from chronic back pain and that a specialist oncologist had visited him 35 times in four years. The outlet also found that the president’s medical team almost doubled in size between 2017 and 2019.
© Associated Press / via Sputnik, Kremlin pool photo | Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday.
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
➤ MORE IN CONGRESS
Could Republican lawmakers actually cooperate to some extent with the House select committee probing the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol? That’s a question being asked after a pair of top GOP members demanded documents from the panel, indicating they are at least considering the idea of doing so.
The letters from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) calling for documents were not dissimilar from previous comments and remarks made by the two about the panel, which they consider illegitimate. However, as The Hill’s Rebecca Beitsch writes, the move cracks open the door for talks over whether they may actually appear.
Alternatively, it could be a tactic with the intent of running down the hourglass on the committee’s work. McCarthy and Jordan are among five members subpoenaed by the panel earlier this month.
“The strategy is obvious: cooperate, take the contempt, or file a lawsuit. There seems to be room for negotiation if the January 6th Committee will engage. But we really are in uncharted territory in many ways,” a Republican official with knowledge of the situation told The Hill.
A third lawmaker took a similar tack on Monday. Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) requested “additional information concerning the rationale” for his subpoena from the House select committee investigating the attack.
In a five-page letter dated last Wednesday to Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), the committee chairman, two attorneys representing Biggs outlined objections against the panel and requested information connected to the subpoena (The Hill).
■ Politico: Former Trump aide Peter Navarro says he has received a grand jury subpoena related to Jan. 6.
■ The Hill: Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (D): GOP trying to “manage everybody’s lives.”
The 2023 farm bill will showcase climate change and sustainability provisions, according to The Hill’s Saul Elbein, who reports on five big questions about the legislation. With drought and extreme weather pummeling crops from California to the Upper Midwest, farmers are “feeling the impacts of climate change before the rest of us,” said Scott Faber of Environmental Working Group.
Draft Senate antitrust legislation released last week by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) targets tech giants but continues to stir objections. The odds of Senate passage hinge on supporters gaining a large enough coalition, including from California Democrats who represent voters in the state where many tech firms are based (The Hill). Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) has said he wants a floor vote by early summer (Axios).
■ My plan for fighting inflation, by President Biden in The Wall Street Journal. https://on.wsj.com/3lVGmFJ
■ I created the FBI’s active shooter program. The officers in Uvalde did not follow their training, by Katherine Schweit, guest essay, The New York Times. https://nyti.ms/38wvNWL
WHERE AND WHEN
The House meets at 11 a.m. for a pro forma session. Lawmakers will return to work on June 7.
The Senate convenes at 11 a.m. for a pro forma session. Senators return to Washington on June 6.
The president will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 9:30 a.m. Biden will welcome New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to the White House and hold a bilateral meeting at 11 a.m. Biden will have lunch with Vice President Harris. He will discuss the economy in the Oval Office with Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell at 1:15 p.m. and will be joined by Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen.
The vice president will meet with Ardern at 10:30 a.m.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken at 1 p.m. speaks at an Equity Town Hall with employees at the Department of State.
The White House daily briefing is scheduled at 2:30 p.m.
© Associated Press / Eric Risberg | New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Friday.
➤ POX & PANDEMIC
The World Health Organization says it is unlikely that the recent outbreak of monkeypox outside of Africa will lead to a pandemic. The organization added that some aspects of human transmission are still unclear (Reuters).
An infectious disease expert in Massachusetts diagnosed the first known case of monkeypox confirmed in the United States (The Boston Globe). “The detective work really starts with listening very carefully to what people say and letting them tell their stories,” physician Nesli Basgoz said.
Massachusetts General Hospital began vaccinating its personnel against monkeypox if they had been in close contact with the patient diagnosed there.
Federal regulators are expected to authorize a COVID-19 vaccine from Novavax in the coming weeks (The Hill).
In China, Shanghai is set to further loosen restrictions from its two-month lockdown on Wednesday that has been among the most intense of any nation or city amid the country’s “COVID zero” policy (The Associated Press).
Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported as of this morning, according to Johns Hopkins University (trackers all vary slightly): 1,004,760. Current average U.S. COVID-19 daily deaths are 315, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
As of today, 77.1 percent of the U.S. population has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 66 percent is “fully vaccinated,” according to the Bloomberg News global vaccine tracker and the government’s definition. The percentage of Americans who have received third or booster doses is 30.7.
The U.S., as part of the Group of Seven most developed nations, issued a statement on Monday to condemn North Korea’s recent intercontinental ballistic missile tests, in particular the test on May 25. “These acts demand a united response by the international community, including a united stance and further significant measures by the U.N. Security Council,” the G-7 foreign ministers said.
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is challenged by Elon Musk and his pending $44 billion deal to acquire Twitter. Musk has berated and antagonized the SEC for years after being penalized for tweeting recklessly about taking Tesla private, and he has been similarly outspoken and mercurial on social media about his bid to buy Twitter (The Hill).
Inflation in the 19 Eurozone countries that share the euro currency rose from 7.4 percent in March and April to 8.1 percent in May, a record (The Associated Press and Reuters). Energy prices jumped 39.2 percent, highlighting how the war in Ukraine and the accompanying global energy crunch are making life more expensive for the eurozone’s 343 million people. Inflation in the eurozone is now at its highest level since recordkeeping for the euro began in 1997. The latest figures add pressure on European Central Bank policymakers to raise interest rates.
© Associated Press / @Klevisl007 via AP | Security guard cleans smeared cream thrown by a man disguised as an elderly woman in a wheelchair at the Mona Lisa’s protective glass on Sunday in Paris.
And finally … The verb is “caked.” The act was attempted vandalism and the perpetrator apparently felt strongly about snagging publicity while protesting on behalf of planet Earth.
The much-analyzed enigmatic smile of the Mona Lisa remained intact, but a sweet patisserie concoction thrown on Sunday by a young man dressed as an elderly woman in a wheelchair made a mess on the bulletproof glass and surprised smartphone-ready tourists who had waited hours in Paris to catch a glimpse of Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece (The Associated Press).
The petite portrait thought to be of an Italian noblewoman, which has been displayed in the Louvre Museum since 1797, was stolen in 1911 by handyman Italian Vincenzo Peruggia and smuggled out of the building the next morning. Decades later, Mona Lisa was attacked with acid and in 2009, hit with a hurled cup that shattered against her see-through shield.