NotedDC — Supreme Court ruling throws curveball in gun debate
The Supreme Court’s ruling Thursday expanding gun rights is throwing a curveball into debate over anti-gun violence efforts as lawmakers scramble to pass legislation.
The Senate has teed up a vote on a bipartisan gun-safety bill for Friday, and the high court’s ruling is fueling a sense of urgency among Democrats to quickly pass the bill.
Democrats have touted new funds for red flag laws and prohibiting guns for five years from dating partners accused of domestic violence as the bill’s biggest achievements.
But as The Hill’s John Kruzel reports, the court’s latest ruling raises questions about whether it could hamper efforts to pass modern gun-safety measures.
Adam Winkler, a professor at the UCLA School of Law, said a gun law must be consistent with historical patterns of gun regulation to be constitutionally permissible.
“There is no historical tradition of taking guns away from people who are in crisis,” Winkler told Kruzel.
Gun control activists have brushed off such concerns, as our colleague Zach Schonfeld reported, even as they condemned the court’s ruling Thursday.
“I believe what the Senate is considering and hopefully will be passing today is clearly constitutional,” said Jonathan Lowy, chief counsel at the Brady Campaign.
Shannon Watts, founder of pro-gun control group Moms Demand Action, tweeted that the ruling “doesn’t touch the policy areas” of the bill.
The 6-3 ruling, which fell along ideological lines, struck down a century-old New York state law that made it more difficult to obtain a permit to carry a handgun in public.
And while the court’s decision in part overshadows the Senate’s effort advancing the bipartisan gun bill, it’s also energized Democrats to push for more action.
“Democrats will never relent in our fight to end the scourge of gun violence,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said, vowing the House will continue to push for a ban on assault-style weapons and other measures the Senate excluded from its bill.
Republicans who opposed the bill have also cited the ruling to justify their positions. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said in a statement that it was an “ever-present reminder” of the “brazen attacks from the left” on the Second Amendment.
John LaBombard, former communications director to Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), said Democrats should emphasize the rare achievement of bipartisanship in today’s Congress.
“They have set an example for how Washington can work when leaders tune out partisan purists in both parties and do the hard work of forging common ground around common values,” LaBombard said.
“That’s what everyday voters across the country want, and it’s an achievement that even today’s court decision can’t undermine,” he added.
White House faces limited options on abortion
The White House is urging states to prepare for Roe v. Wade to be overturned, with a Supreme Court ruling on the issue coming as soon as Friday.
- Why it’s important: The federal government doesn’t have many avenues to protect access to abortion.
- Democrats’ efforts to codify abortion rights in Congress were also blocked in May shortly after a draft opinion on the issue was leaked.
Vice President Harris has been vocal on the issue, meeting with state attorneys general on Thursday to push them to issue legal guidance and resources.
- “We’ve started preliminary discussions about how attorneys general … may have the power, at the very least, to issue guidance to ensure that the people of their state know their rights, that they have the power to assess and potentially challenge the constitutionality of laws being passed in their state,” Harris said.
- The vice president didn’t lay out any specific details about what the White House may try to do, likely a nod to the limited options.
The Hill previously reported that administration officials met with state officials and advocacy groups, asking questions about access to abortion pills and state laws prohibiting expenses for travel to receive an abortion.
A big question — how will Biden respond? The president, who has long had a discomfort talking about abortion because of his Catholic faith and views on access, has faced criticism for only recently saying the word “abortion.”
- However, the president’s response will be in the spotlight with the conservative-majority court poised to hand down a major decision on abortion rights.
- Mass protests are expected and the court has beefed up its security in the past two months, while Congress passed expanded security for justices’ families.
Congress zooms toward packed July agenda
Lawmakers are scheduled to leave town this weekend for the July 4 holiday. When they return, it will be a mad-dash to pass priority legislation ahead of Congress’ annual month-long August recess.
The looming midterm elections — which will decide which party controls the House and Senate — add to the pressure on Congress to quickly wrap up its work as members head back on the campaign trail.
And while leaders have been cool to President Biden‘s proposed three-month suspension of the federal gas tax, lawmakers will have plenty of other items on their plate in July.
Here’s a look at some of the top issues:
1. Insulin, burn pits
- Leaders say they expect a bill capping insulin prices will likely be taken up in July.
- Legislation meant to provide aid to veterans who are victims of burn pits and other toxic exposures has broad support, but a technical issue in the text created a last-minute hurdle that delayed its final passage.
2. Big spending measures
- Lawmakers have major spending proposals to hash out. Appropriations panels have been hearing testimony from Biden officials about priorities for a possible long-term budget plan — knocking off a key starting point for deeper talks.
- Congress also has yet to approve the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), but committees have been working toward an agreement.
3. Reconciliation redux?
- Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) has resumed private meetings with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) to try again to reach a deal on a slimmed-down version of Democrats’ sweeping spending bill.
4. Capitol riot hearings resume
- Following what officials have described as a massive influx of information, the committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol will extend its hearings into July, when House members return from the break.
PHIL ON THE HILL
TV personality Dr. Phil McGraw was on Capitol Hill on Thursday to discuss mental health with lawmakers, including Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), who is also a doctor.
Kennedy Center not lifting mask mandate
New York City’s famed Broadway theaters will be allowed to drop their mask mandates starting July 1, but D.C. arts lovers will still have to mask-up to go to shows at the Kennedy Center for the time being.
“At this time, the Kennedy Center will continue to require masks at all indoor performances,” a spokesman for the center told NotedDC. “We do not currently have plans to lift that requirement.”
The Kennedy Center, which has consulted with the Cleveland Clinic and Inova to navigate the coronavirus pandemic, currently requires masks only during indoor performances, when audience members are not actively eating or drinking.
Masks aren’t required in public, non-performance areas, including the Hall of States, Hall of Nations and Grand Foyer, where masks are optional.
The center initially required proof of vaccination, as well, but reversed its position on that policy in April.
Summer solstice events in Washington
Finally, you can celebrate the start of summer with the Smithsonian this Saturday by staying up late and dancing on the National Mall.
Here are the museums that will be open until midnight:
- The Smithsonian Castle and Haupt Garden
- Arts and Industries Building
- National Museum of African Art
- National Museum of Asian Art
- National Museum of Natural History
Some fun activities at the museums:
- Glow in the dark while doing yoga at the Haupt Garden
- Enjoy a performance of John Luther Adam’s “Earth and the Great Weather” at the Hirshhorn Museum
- Celebrate the life of musician Tito Matos at the Folklife Festival on the Mall
ONE NUMBER TO KNOW
The number of Republicans who voted to advance the gun-safety bill to a final vote, expected to take place Friday. The Hill’s Alexander Bolton has a rundown on each member.
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