poster=”http://v.politico.com/images/1155968404/201908/2461/1155968404_6068231289001_6068234472001-vs.jpg?pubId=1155968404″ true congress Republicans hide behind Trump in gun debate GOP lawmakers are sticking with the president and the NRA. By MELANIE ZANONA, MARIANNE LEVINE and SARAH FERRIS 08/05/2019 06:41 PM EDT Share on Facebook Share on Twitter President Donald Trump briefly raised eyebrows Monday when he tweeted an endorsement of stronger background checks, tied…
President Donald Trump briefly raised eyebrows Monday when he tweeted an endorsement of stronger background checks, tied to immigration reform, after the nightmarish mass shootings over the weekend.
But skeptical Republicans familiar with Trump’s mercurial nature didn’t rush out to embrace the idea.
Story Continued Below
“There aren’t many Republicans who trust that the president won’t change his mind,” said one senior GOP lawmaker.
Not 30 minutes later, Trump used a White House address to call for changing mental health laws and implementing “red flag” laws — far more modest proposals — while condemning white supremacy and avoiding the topic of background checks altogether.
“Mental illness and hatred pulls the trigger, not the gun,” Trump said. “I am open and ready to listen and discuss all ideas that will actually work and make a very big difference.”
Congressional Republicans are ignoring Democratic demands for stricter gun control after at least 31 people were killed over the weekend in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio. They’re far more comfortable blaming the increasingly frequent horrors on problems with mental health or American culture than in taking on the National Rifle Association and conservative grassroots activists.
Assault Weapons Background Checks Weapon Registry
So Trump’s lightning-fast shift in focus may give some cover to Republicans, who want to stand with the president and remain aligned with GOP orthodoxy.
Trump’s allies on Capitol Hill quickly mobilized to affirm the president’s stance.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said he would introduce legislation encouraging more states to adopt red flag laws, which allow local law enforcement officials to temporarily seize guns from people who may pose a risk to themselves or others.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy had cited video games on Sunday as a potential cause of violence in the country. On Monday, the California Republican praised the president for condemning racism, bigotry and white supremacy in his Monday morning address.
“Couldn’t agree more, Mr. President,” McCarthy said in a tweet that marked his only response to Trump’s comments.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement Monday that GOP senators are “prepared to do our part” to answer the president’s call and work in a bipartisan fashion.
The Kentucky Republican also said he encouraged several committee chairmen, including Graham, to “engage in bipartisan discussions of potential solutions.” But he made no promises about taking any action on the floor and dismissed “partisan theatrics and campaign-trail rhetoric,” in a shot presumably aimed at Democrats hammering him.
Meanwhile, Congress is out for its August recess, with some GOP lawmakers abroad on congressional delegation trips, which has also given them cover from having to respond to Trump — or reporters — directly. Those who have responded largely sidestepped questions about their position on strengthening background checks.
Democrats are vowing to keep the pressure on the GOP.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued a joint statement urging McConnell to bring the Senate back to Washington and pass legislation from the Democratic-controlled House requiring universal background checks.
Democrats also panned Trump’s initial idea of pairing changes to background check laws with immigration reform.
“I thought the president’s tweet this morning somehow linking immigration reform to this issue was obscene,” said Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) at a news conference in Illinois. “There is no connection — putting kids in cages at the border for longer periods of time will not stop mass shootings in America.”
Some Democrats expressed hope that Trump would follow through on his tweet, even as they acknowledged he’s made similar promises before, only to retreat under pressure from the right.
Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
Kevin McCarthy Richard Durbin Dick Durbin Nancy Pelosi NRA Donald Trump Donald Trump 2020 Gun Control Lindsey Graham El Paso shooting Dayton shooting
POLITICO Playbook and get the latest news, every morning — in your inbox.