Welcome to The Daily 202! Tell your friends to sign up here. A programming note: As you may have noticed, we’ve focused The Big Idea (Olivier’s column at the top of the newsletter) on Russia’s war in Ukraine for the past few weeks. We’ll keep a close eye on developments there, but with so many other vital political stories to tell, we are returning to a broader diet. Today: Gun violence.
The big idea
‘Enough,’ Biden said of gun violence. We’ll know soon.
“Enough! Enough! Enough!” — President Biden, June 2, 2022.
As Biden implored Congress Thursday night to tighten restrictions on guns, the question on every listener’s mind — and clearly on the president’s — was “is this time different?” Are the latest massacres in what are supposed to be safe spaces of American life — a school, a grocery store, a hospital — going to tilt the political balance in Washington?
In a rare prime-time address, Biden rattled off more than two decades of mass shootings — “after Columbine, after Sandy Hook, after Charleston, after Orlando, after Las Vegas, after Parkland, nothing has been done.”
- “This time that can't be true. This time we must actually do something,” he said. “For God's sake, how much more carnage are we willing to accept? How many more innocent American lives must be taken before we say enough? Enough.”
In an acknowledgment of the difficult legislative road ahead, Biden said if “unconscionable” Republican opposition blocks action, the majority of American voters who support making it more difficult to own a gun will need to vote in lawmakers who do — a nod to November midterm elections.
“I've been in this fight for a long time. I know how hard it is. But I will never give up,” he promised. “And if Congress fails, I believe this time a majority of the American people won't give up either. I believe the majority of you will act to turn your outrage into making this issue central to your vote.”
Echoes of Obama
If that sounded familiar, it should have.
Not quite a decade ago, President Obama was seething over Congress’s “shameful” failure to enact even modest limits on guns after the massacre of 20 six- and seven-year-olds and six adults at a school in Newtown, Conn. If Congress won’t change, he argued, America should change Congress.
“Ultimately, you outnumber those who argued the other way,” Obama said in the Rose Garden on April 17, 2013. “But they're better organized. They're better financed. They’ve been at it longer. And they make sure to stay focused on this one issue during election time.”
In what surely informs today’s skepticism Congress will act, the parents of the kids killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School had lobbied Congress. Some had insisted on open-casket funerals for their maimed children to sway politicians.
The Senate roll call votes for April 17, 2013, tell the story: Despite a bipartisan compromise drafted by two gun-owning lawmakers, most Republicans and a handful of Democrats defeated the legislation.
- “So to change Washington, you, the American people, are going to have to sustain some passion about this,” Obama declared. “And when necessary, you’ve got to send the right people to Washington.”
Much of Biden’s speech drew from a searingly emotional script grown numbingly familiar from repetition in the aftermath of so many mass shootings, and especially familiar to those who have covered this president, steeped as he has been in this issue throughout his decades in politics.
There was the anger and frustration, the empathy with parents of the slaughtered schoolchildren of Uvalde, Tex., the loved ones of grocery shoppers gunned down in a Buffalo supermarket, the relatives of the victims at the hospital in Tulsa.
Biden expressed support for bipartisan Senate negotiations — the unforgiving political math is most Republicans will oppose even modest curbs on gun ownership, and he needs 10 GOP votes to get anything to his desk.
“My God, the fact that the majority of the Senate Republicans don't want any of these proposals even to be debated or come up for a vote I find unconscionable,” he said.
What deal would be enough for Biden
Biden mostly repeated his policy solutions: A revival of the assault weapons ban he championed in 1994 but which expired a decade later. If Republicans block that, he said, at least raise the purchase age from 18 to 21. Set limits on high-capacity magazines. Strengthen background checks for gun purchases. Create national “red flag” laws meant to keep guns from anyone who poses a threat to themselves or others. Repeal the gun industry’s unique immunity from civil lawsuits. Codify limits the Justice Department set last year on “ghost guns.” Make gun owners legally liable if their firearms are used in a crime. And address the national mental health crisis.
My colleagues Tyler Pager, Seung Min Kim and Mike DeBonis have this perspective on the congressional talks: “Both Democrats and Republican senators involved — including longtime veterans of the gun debate such as Sens. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and John Cornyn (R-Tex.), and perennial Senate negotiators Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) — have signaled substantive progress in recent days. They have also said the window for a deal is limited.”
“There have been no signs of serious trouble so far in the Senate gun talks, with aides seeing Murphy and Cornyn — two senators who are respected within their parties — as potential linchpins to a deal. Republicans have signaled they may be open to modest measures, and Democrats have suggested they are willing to accept such smaller steps.”
Will it be “enough?”
What’s happening now
Unemployment rate stays steady at pandemic low of 3.6%
“U.S. employers added 390,000 jobs in May, another month of blockbuster growth that points to sustained economic growth in the face of mounting headwinds. The unemployment rate remained unchanged at 3.6 percent, the Labor Department said Friday,” Abha Bhattarai reports.
The war in Ukraine
Ukraine marks 100 days of war as battle for Severodonetsk rages
“President Volodymyr Zelensky remained defiant Friday as the war in Ukraine entered its 100th day. ‘We have been defending Ukraine for 100 days already. Victory will be ours,’ he said in a video Friday that showed him alongside his prime minister and other top officials in Ukraine,” Victoria Bisset, Andrew Jeong, Amy Cheng, Ellen Francis and Jonathan Edwards report.
More key updates:
Lunchtime reads from The Post
Democratic Senate hopefuls call for ending filibuster to pass gun laws
“Democratic candidates in high-profile Senate races are renewing a push to squash the filibuster, this time to pass stricter gun laws. They say that if elected, they would not let Republicans, or even some Democrats, stand in the way of acting on an issue with wide public support,” Colby Itkowitz, Michael Scherer and Mike DeBonis report.
Young men, guns and the prefrontal cortex
“In coming weeks and months, investigators will dissect [the Uvalde shooter's] life to try to figure out what led him to that horrific moment at 11:40 a.m. Tuesday, May 24 when he opened fire on a classroom full of 9- and-10-year-olds at Robb Elementary School. Although clear answers are unlikely, the patterns that have emerged about mass shooters in the growing databases, school reports, medical notes and interview transcripts show a disturbing confluence between angry young men, easy access to weapons and reinforcement of violence by social media,” Ariana Eunjung Cha, Meghan Hoyer and Tim Meko report.
… and beyond
Democrats face pressure on crime from a new front: their base
“In Democratic strongholds like Maryland, a rise in violent crime has pushed the party’s candidates to address the issue of public safety in newly urgent terms. Even before the recent mass shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde, Texas, reignited the debate over gun control, day-to-day gun crimes and other acts of violence were rattling the American electorate,” the New York Times's Alexander Burns reports.
“Long seen as a political wedge for Republicans to use against Democrats, crime is increasingly a subject of concern within the Democratic Party and the big cities that make up much of its political base.”
Voters say they want gun control. Their votes say something different.
“When voters in four Democratic-leaning states got the opportunity to enact expanded gun background checks into law, the overwhelming support suggested by national surveys was nowhere to be found. Instead, the initiative and referendum results in Maine, California, Washington and Nevada were nearly identical to those of the 2016 presidential election, all the way down to the result of individual counties,” the NYT's Nate Cohn explains.
“Hillary Clinton fared better at the ballot box than expanded background checks in the same states, most on the same day among the same voters.”
The latest on covid
Coronavirus shots for kids under 5 could begin June 21
“White House coronavirus response coordinator Ashish Jha said Thursday that long-awaited vaccinations for children younger than 5 could begin as early as June 21, pending decisions by regulators and public health officials,” Carolyn Y. Johnson reports.
The Biden agenda
Americans are unusually lukewarm about a second Biden term
“According to an AP/NORC poll conducted from Jan. 13-18, 70 percent of Americans don’t want the president to run in 2024. Even Democrats are lukewarm about the idea. A CNN/SSRS poll conducted from Jan. 10-Feb. 6 found that slightly more than half (51 percent) of registered Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents wanted a candidate other than Biden,” FiveThirtyEight's Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux reports.
- “The share of Americans who don’t want Biden to seek a second term is unusually high compared to previous first-term presidents. It’s also uncommon for voters to think that a sitting president won’t run for reelection.”
New environmental justice office to tackle disproportionate health impacts faced by people of color
“The Biden administration has created an Office of Environmental Justice in the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), part of an effort to tackle the health impacts of pollution and climate change disproportionately faced by communities of color,” the 19th's Jessica Kutz reports.
Biden to travel to Saudi Arabia, a country he once vowed to make a ‘pariah’
“President Biden is planning to visit Saudi Arabia later this month, a remarkable departure from his vow as a presidential candidate to treat the country as a ‘pariah’ state, according to three administration officials who requested anonymity to share details of a trip not yet announced,” Tyler Pager and John Hudson report.
White House rapid response director departs for Treasury as Biden's messaging operation transitions
“Mike Gwin, an Ohio native who would inevitably end up in a key communications role in whatever the crisis or major policy issue facing Biden throughout the course of his first 16 months in office, will serve as the deputy assistant secretary for public affairs under Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen,” CNN's Phil Mattingly reports.
White House announces it will pay its interns
“The White House announced Thursday that it will launch a paid internship program as part of an effort to remove barriers for applicants from diverse backgrounds,” Amy B Wang reports.
2022's mass shootings, visualized
There have been more than 200 mass shootings so far this year, our colleagues Júlia Ledur and Kate Rabinowitz report.
“Mass shootings, where four or more people — not including the shooter — are injured or killed, have averaged more than one per day so far this year. Not a single week in 2022 has passed without at least four mass shootings.”
Hot on the left
Ohio House Republicans use back-door path to pass ban on transgender girls in female sports
“House Republicans passed a bill late Wednesday that would prohibit transgender girls from joining female sports teams in high school and college, shoving the proposal into an unrelated bill before taking off for summer break,” the Columbus Dispatch's Haley BeMiller reports.
“Wednesday's vote, which came on the first day of Pride Month, marked the second time Republicans sought a back-door path for the controversial measure.”
Noteworthy: “If a student's biological sex is called into question, they must get a signed statement from a doctor verifying it.”
Hot on the right
Confederate flags are banned from CMA country music festival, officials announce
“One of the biggest country music festivals has put its boot down: No more Confederate flags. The Country Music Association added ‘Confederate flag imagery of any kind’ to the prohibited items list at the upcoming CMA Fest in Nashville, Tennessee,” the Charlotte Observer's Alison Cutler reports.
“The association said the decision to ban Confederate flag imagery was an updated part of the policy to protect the safety of fans, according to a statement obtained by The Tennessean.”
Today in Washington
The president doesn’t have any public events scheduled this afternoon.
“Harini Logan, a 14-year-old from Texas, won the 2022 Scripps National Spelling Bee late Thursday night in a dramatic, unprecedented spell-off,” Tara Bahrampour reports. Watch it here:
Thanks for reading. See you next week.