White House officials are privately bearish that Congress will pass anything substantial to limit guns. Biden aides aren't under any delusion that a presidential speech will change deeply entrenched and structural obstruction on Capitol Hill, Axios reports.
Biden, stymied after mass shootings in Buffalo, Uvalde and Tulsa, used the word "enough" 11 times in a 17-minute address to the nation on gun violence.
He declared, "How many more innocent American lives must be taken before we say 'enough'? Enough! ... Enough. Enough. ... Enough. ... Enough. ... Enough. Enough. Enough! ... My fellow Americans, enough! Enough. It’s time for each of us to do our part. It's time to act."
Since the Uvalde school killings 10 days ago, Democrats have tried to give Senate Republicans the political space to do something on guns.
Officially, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre described the president as "encouraged by what we’re seeing on the Hill. You know, this is the first time in a very long time that we have seen this type of bipartisanship."
Still, if GOP senators are looking for any excuse to bail on negotiations, the president gave it to them. He called for specifics, including an assault weapons ban, that are nonstarters: "We need to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines."
Axios says the question for Republican senators is how offended they decide to get about Biden’s rhetoric.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), a key player in the talks, said, "I stand ready to vote on ALL the proposals mentioned by President Biden tonight and encourage the Democratic Leader to bring them forward." Translation: He would vote no.
Much of what Biden is calling for doesn’t have 60 votes in the Senate – including raising the age to buy assault weapons to 21. Sens. Chris Murphy (D-CT) and John Cornyn (R-TX) are leading bipartisan talks on a much smaller package that could include a narrow expansion of background checks, incentivizing states to create red flag laws and bolstering school security.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said "mental illness and school safety are what we need to target.”
After Biden's speech, the House Judiciary Committee approved a massive package of gun safety bills that would address many of the issues outlined by the president. The party-line vote followed a lengthy and contentious all-day markup.