Congress is in recess next week. Which means political observers will be closely watching what sort of backlash, if any, Senators face at home in the wake of their No vote on the Toomey-Manchin compromise on expanded background checks — particularly since new signs are emerging that the gun debate isn’t over.
Along these lines, Quinnipiac has released a remarkably detailed set of poll numbers out of Pennsylvania that tell us a good deal about the strengths and weaknesses of the chances for further action. It finds that 70 percent of Pennsylvania voters are either dissatisfied or angry over the Senate’s rejection of the background check compromise. That includes a majority (52 percent) of Republicans.
Pennsylvania is an interesting test case with broader implications. While it does lean blue, it has a deep gun culture, and it is home to the sort of suburban district — represented by Republicans — where gun reformers still hope to pick up unexpected GOP support.
Indeed, one notable finding is that Pat Toomey’s approval rating is now at 53 percent among suburban voters — in a state where the Philadelphia suburbs are key to statewide races. Hopefully other Republicans who represent rapidly suburbanizing states (such as Kelly Ayotte) or suburban House districts will take note. Overall, 54 percent in Pennsylvania — and 58 percent of suburbanites — view Toomey more favorably because of his stewardship of the bill. And 61 percent of women — a demographic the GOP needs to improve among — view him more favorably.
Meanwhile, 68 percent don’t believe the bill would unfairly target gun enthusiasts, and 57 percent don’t think new gun control laws would interfere with gun rights. This again suggests what national polling has also borne out: The public embraces the sensible middle ground position that background checks are not incompatible with the right to bear arms.
Now for the bad news for gun reformers. Fifty nine percent say they could vote for a candidate who disagrees with them on guns. Only 19 percent have contacted a public official on the issue; only 15 percent have given money to an organization involved in it. All of this again suggests — as Republicans have calculated — that this isn’t a motivating issue.
While this doesn’t matter in Pennsylvania, given Toomey’s support, that is also borne out in national polling, and speaks directly to the larger challenge here. As I keep telling you, now is the time for the gun control forces to prove that they can extract a real political price for Senators’ No votes.
* Senators quietly keep gun control talks alive: Relatedly, the New York Times reports that Senators are quietly exploring new fixes to the law that could entice Senators who voted No to change their mind. What’s more, Joe Biden is privately telling folks this remains his highest priority. This tidbit on is key:
Ms. Ayotte — the only one out of 22 senators on the East Coast north of Virginia who voted against strengthening background checks — has been the target lately of some of the most furious lobbying by gun control proponents, who have inundated local newspapers with letters to the editor denouncing her vote, run radio ads saying she “ignored the will of the people” and swamped her office with phone calls. On Thursday, two receptionists placed one call after another on hold as they politely listened to callers vent and replied, “Thank you for your message.”
Meanwhile, National Journal reports on the constellation of progressive and gun groups seems determined to show that even red state Dems can’t afford to alienate the Dem base on the issue. Readers, please tell me what you see in the way of a backlash in your states and districts during the recess. We’ll be tracking this here.
* Senate suddenly acts very quickly on sequestration: That was fast: The Senate has already passed a bill to get around the sequestration’s impact on flight delays, and the House is expected to follow suit today. Whatever the merits of addressing flight delays, the problem here is that this could reduce pressure on lawmakers to cancel the sequester completely, something many liberals and Dems are still hoping for.
* The Senate’s odd priorities: Steve Benen, on the Senate’s “lightning speed” action on an issue it really cares about:
I have no special fondness for FAA furloughs or disrupted air travel, but when Republicans pushed for sequestration, the goal was to create a policy that would hurt the country on purpose. What’s more, it’s proven to be quite effective — millions of Americans have been affected and continue to feel the pinch. But it appears that lawmakers are also mindful of which Americans are affected and what kind of inconveniences the political world is prepared to tolerate. Children being thrown out of Head Start centers is a shame, but wealthier air travelers waiting on the tarmac for a couple of hours is a travesty in need of swift congressional intervention.
Who says the Senate is dysfunctional?
* GOP wrestles with Obamacare: Roll Call has an interesting piece detailing the internal conflicts jolting the House GOP conference as conservatives continue to oppose any changes to Obamacare that doesn’t hold out the promise of the complete destruction of the law. This is fascinating:
A House Republican leadership aide said that GOP leaders want to repeal the health care law as much as the rank and file but have adjusted their tactics to account for the reality that Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., runs the Senate and Obama will serve in the White House until 2017. Republican members, this individual said, have to come to terms with this dynamic.
Wait, so the “reality” is that Obamacare repeal isn’t gonna happen? Well, yeah, but Republican leaders themselves have fed the base’s repeal fantasies very aggressively for a good long time, so they’re partly to blame for this fix.
* Senate and House at odds over immigration: Jon Terbush has a good overview of the coming collision between the Senate and House on immigration. House Republicans want to introduce immigration reform in pieces, in order to slowly win over conservatives, but it’s hard to see how citizenship fits into that. Chuck Schumer:
“We can’t do individual bills because the problem is people say, ‘What about me?'” Schumer said. “The best way to pass immigration legislation is actually a comprehensive bill because that can achieve more balance and everybody can get much, but not all, of what they want.”
As noted here yesterday, John McCain has boxed in House Republicans by declaring reform a nonstarter without citizenship, effectively telling them they have no option other than to embrace it.
* Republicans fret about lack of debt ceiling strategy: Rank and file GOP lawmakers are reportedly worried that the House GOP leadership doesn’t seem to have a strategy worked out for the coming battle over the debt limit.
The problem here seems straightforward: Conservatives are likely to demand a debt limit showdown, but GOP leaders have already openly revealed that they won’t allow default, and thus don’t have any leverage to wage such a showdown.
* Benghazi talking point crashes and burns: Glenn Kessler really does a demolition job on the GOP claim that Hillary Clinton personally denied security to the embassy in Benghazi that was targeted with attacks. Just brutal.
* Krugman broadens indictment of austerians: Paul Krugman’s column argues that the continued dominance of the austerity agenda, in the face of all intellectual evidence against it, can be explained by the fact that the wealthy tend to support it and continue to do quite well in spite of the damage it’s done to everyone else:
The wealthy favor cutting federal spending on health care and Social Security — that is, “entitlements” — while the public at large actually wants to see spending on those programs rise. You get the idea: The austerity agenda looks a lot like a simple expression of upper-class preferences, wrapped in a facade of academic rigor. What the top 1 percent wants becomes what economic science says we must do.
It also doesn’t help that one of the two parties’ bases has rendered it essentially incapable of offering anything else (though Dems are somewhat culpable for the continued sway of austerity, too).
* And the real Bush legacy: Eugene Robinson boils it down: Iraq and torture.