5 senators to watch in gun control debate

January 10, 2013

Vice President Joe Biden is promising to produce a package of proposals aimed at curbing gun violence by the end of the month, a move that will trigger a major legislative brouhaha on Capitol Hill in the coming weeks.

Biden, a veteran of congressional slugfests, made clear in remarks on Wednesday that he was both open to compromise and committed to action. “This is a problem that requires immediate attention,” he said. “I want to make clear that we’re not going to get caught up in the notion that, unless we can do everything, we’re going to do nothing.”


Guns for sale at a gun show in Chantilly, Va.

While all 535 Members of Congress will have something to say -- they are politicians, after all -- on whatever Biden and his task force propose, some members matter more than others.

Today, we tackle five senators -- yes, it's (almost) always five -- who will play key roles in determining the fate of any gun legislation. We plan to take a look at the handful of House members who really matter just as soon as we can put a smart one together. (Got ideas? Send them to chris-dot-cillizza-at-wpost-dot-com.)

The senators listed below -- in alphabetical order -- are gathered from our own observations as well as the thoughts of connected operatives in both parties. Who did we miss? The comments section awaits.

* Michael Bennet: The Colorado senator is the head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, the organization charged with reelecting the 21 incumbents up for re-election in November 2014. Many of the senators facing the toughest races -- Tim Johnson in South Dakota, Jay Rockefeller in West Virginia, Mary Landrieu in Louisiana, Kay Hagan in North Carolina -- represent states where gun ownership is the rule not the exception. Bennet will need to run interference for this group, making sure that the White House doesn't leave them out on a political limb that their Republican opponent can easily saw off.

Susan Collins: The retirement of Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe (R) and defeat of Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown (R) makes Collins the most high-profile Republican moderate in the world's greatest deliberative body. In the aftermath of Newtown, Collins released a statement insisting that "while denying the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens won't change the behavior of those intent on using firearms for criminal purposes, I wholeheartedly agree that we must examine what can be done to help prevent gun violence." What that means in terms of specific sorts of legislative measures she would support is anyone's guess.

* Dianne Feinstein: The California Democrat has long been an active voice for more gun control, stemming from her own personal experience with gun violence. (In the late 1970s, Feinstein became mayor of San Francisco after Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk were murdered by a former colleague.) Feinstein has pledged to introduce a version of the assault weapons ban in the 113th Congress. That ban expired in 2004. Feinstein is likely to be in the middle of any attempted legislative solution and will be a major figure pushing hard for the Obama Administration to do more rather than less on restricting guns.

Joe Manchin: In his 2010 Senate race, the West Virginia Democrat ran an ad that showed him shooting -- literally, shooting -- President Obama's cap and trade bill. In the wake of the Newtown, Manchin said he was open to further dialogue on guns in society but offered few specifics about what he might be for or against. If Biden and the White House can convince someone like Manchin to sign on to their proposal, it would be a major symbolic win. If not, the opposite holds true.

* Mitch McConnell: In the aftermath of the fiscal cliff negotiations, we coined the Kentucky Republican the "Red" of the Senate -- a man who knows how to get things. (Shawshank rules!) Given the proof we have that McConnell and Biden know how to cut deals, it seems virtually certain that any major -- or even minor -- deal on guns will feature McConnell as a prime player. Never forget that McConnell has his own politics to keep an eye on in a state that is decidedly friendly to gun rights. McConnell's numbers in the state are not great, but a GOP primary challenge seems unlikely and no major Democrats are making noise about the contest -- yet.

Fixbits:

The White House won't explicitly rule out the trillion dollar coin as an option to solve the debt ceiling debate. More on the coin idea here.

The Financial Services Roundtable, which is now headed by former GOP presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty, is pushing for an increase in the debt limit.

Former senator Norm Coleman (R-Minn.), who ruled out a 2014 Senate run in a story published Wednesday, now says he may run for governor. Gov. Mark Dayton (D-Minn.) is up for a second term.

A federal appeals court is considering releasing postmortem photos of Osama bin Laden.

Forbes reports that Al Gore is now wealthier than Mitt Romney.

Former congressional candidate Jon Barela (R) won't challenge Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) in 2014.

Republican Governors Association political director Josh Robinson is heading to New Jersey to work on the state's 2013 elections.

Must-reads:

"Hilda Solis resigns as labor secretary; some others in Cabinet to stay on" -- Steven Mufson and David Nakamura, Washington Post

"Group Pushing Deficit Cuts Has Deep Business Ties" -- Nicholas Confessore, New York Times

"In campaign for tougher gun laws, Obama and allies work to tilt public opinion" -- Philip Rucker, Washington Post

SECTION: {section=politics, subsection=null}!!!
INITIAL commentConfig: {includereply=true, canvas_permalink_id=washpost.com/8bvh5zpd9k, allow_comments=true, commentmaxlength=2000, includeshare=true, display_comments=true, canvas_permalink_app_instance=bg52e9xhqr, display_more=true, moderationrequired=false, includefeaturenotification=true, comments_period=14, defaultsort=reverseChronological, canvas_allcomments_id=washpost.com/km4ey0dajm, includevoteofftopic=false, allow_videos=false, includesorts=true, markerdisplay=post_commenter:Post Commenter|staff:Post Writer|top_commenter:Post Forum|top_local:Washingtologist|top_sports:SuperFan|fact_checker:Fact Checker|post_recommended:Post Recommended|world_watcher:World Watcher|cultuer_connoisseur:Culture Connoisseur|weather_watcher:Capital Weather Watcher|post_contributor:Post Contributor, childrenitemsperpage=3, includeheader=true, includeverifiedcommenters=true, defaulttab=all, includerecommend=true, includereport=true, maxitemstop=2, source=washpost.com, allow_photos=false, maxitems=7, display_ugc_photos=false, includepause=true, canvas_allcomments_app_instance=6634zxcgfd, includepermalink=false}!!!

UGC FROM ARTICLE: !!!

FINAL commentConfig: {includereply=true, canvas_permalink_id=washpost.com/8bvh5zpd9k, allow_comments=true, commentmaxlength=2000, includeshare=true, display_comments=true, canvas_permalink_app_instance=bg52e9xhqr, display_more=true, moderationrequired=false, includefeaturenotification=true, comments_period=14, defaultsort=reverseChronological, canvas_allcomments_id=washpost.com/km4ey0dajm, includevoteofftopic=false, allow_videos=false, includesorts=true, markerdisplay=post_commenter:Post Commenter|staff:Post Writer|top_commenter:Post Forum|top_local:Washingtologist|top_sports:SuperFan|fact_checker:Fact Checker|post_recommended:Post Recommended|world_watcher:World Watcher|cultuer_connoisseur:Culture Connoisseur|weather_watcher:Capital Weather Watcher|post_contributor:Post Contributor, childrenitemsperpage=3, includeheader=true, includeverifiedcommenters=true, defaulttab=all, includerecommend=true, includereport=true, maxitemstop=2, source=washpost.com, allow_photos=false, maxitems=7, display_ugc_photos=false, includepause=true, canvas_allcomments_app_instance=6634zxcgfd, includepermalink=false}!!
Comments
SECTION: {section=politics, subsection=null}!!!
INITIAL commentConfig: {includereply=true, canvas_permalink_id=washpost.com/8bvh5zpd9k, allow_comments=true, commentmaxlength=2000, includeshare=true, display_comments=true, canvas_permalink_app_instance=bg52e9xhqr, display_more=true, moderationrequired=false, includefeaturenotification=true, comments_period=14, defaultsort=reverseChronological, canvas_allcomments_id=washpost.com/km4ey0dajm, includevoteofftopic=false, allow_videos=false, includesorts=true, markerdisplay=post_commenter:Post Commenter|staff:Post Writer|top_commenter:Post Forum|top_local:Washingtologist|top_sports:SuperFan|fact_checker:Fact Checker|post_recommended:Post Recommended|world_watcher:World Watcher|cultuer_connoisseur:Culture Connoisseur|weather_watcher:Capital Weather Watcher|post_contributor:Post Contributor, childrenitemsperpage=3, includeheader=true, includeverifiedcommenters=true, defaulttab=all, includerecommend=true, includereport=true, maxitemstop=2, source=washpost.com, allow_photos=false, maxitems=7, display_ugc_photos=false, includepause=true, canvas_allcomments_app_instance=6634zxcgfd, includepermalink=false}!!!

UGC FROM ARTICLE: !!!

FINAL commentConfig: {includereply=true, canvas_permalink_id=washpost.com/8bvh5zpd9k, allow_comments=true, commentmaxlength=2000, includeshare=true, display_comments=true, canvas_permalink_app_instance=bg52e9xhqr, display_more=true, moderationrequired=false, includefeaturenotification=true, comments_period=14, defaultsort=reverseChronological, canvas_allcomments_id=washpost.com/km4ey0dajm, includevoteofftopic=false, allow_videos=false, includesorts=true, markerdisplay=post_commenter:Post Commenter|staff:Post Writer|top_commenter:Post Forum|top_local:Washingtologist|top_sports:SuperFan|fact_checker:Fact Checker|post_recommended:Post Recommended|world_watcher:World Watcher|cultuer_connoisseur:Culture Connoisseur|weather_watcher:Capital Weather Watcher|post_contributor:Post Contributor, childrenitemsperpage=3, includeheader=true, includeverifiedcommenters=true, defaulttab=all, includerecommend=true, includereport=true, maxitemstop=2, source=washpost.com, allow_photos=false, maxitems=7, display_ugc_photos=false, includepause=true, canvas_allcomments_app_instance=6634zxcgfd, includepermalink=false}!!
Show Comments
Next Story
Sean Sullivan | January 9, 2013