By MICHAEL FALCONE (@michaelpfalcone)
- NEWTOWN FAMILIES RETURN: Nearly six months after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the parents of the Newtown, Conn., children killed there are back on Capitol Hill this week, lobbying for tougher gun legislation to prevent tragedies like the one that left 20 students and six educators dead in December. ABC’s ARLETTE SAENZ notes that the Newtown families were last on Capitol Hill when the gun bill failed to pass the Senate less than a month ago, a moment President Obama called a “shameful day for Washington.” Shortly after the Senate voted against the plan, several parents whose children were killed at Sandy Hook appeared alongside the president at the White House as he vowed to continue the fight to enact stricter gun laws. “I see this as just round one,” Obama said in April. “I believe we’re going to be able to get this one. Sooner or later we are going to get this right. The memories of these children demand it, and so do the American people.” http://abcn.ws/16cDh6a
- ON THE HILL: Several Newtown families met with members of Congress on Tuesday to pressure lawmakers to continue work on the expansion of background checks. The families plan to meet with Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., one of the architects of the failed background check bill, and in the afternoon, the Newtown parents are scheduled to attend a meeting with House Speaker John Boehner and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.
- BLOOMBERG APPEALS TO BIG DONORS: Today New York City Mayor and gun control advocate Michael Bloomberg is turning up some financial pressure on Democrats who don’t support gun control measures, ABC’s RICK KLEIN notes. He told The New York Times that he’ll be asking big Democratic donors to stop donating money to the Democrats who stood with Republicans in blocking the gun bill. “If they come and ask for the money, you say to them, ‘What do you stand for?’ ” Bloomberg told The Times’ Nicholas Confessore and Jeremy Peters. “I want to tell people what these four stand for. And then people can make up their own minds.” His comments are sparking some anger even from pro-gun-control Democrats, who fear this will make it more likely that Republicans will win those red-state seats. http://nyti.ms/11UVwIc
- BIDEN TO HOST JUNE 18 EVENT: “Vice President Joe Biden will try to restart the dormant gun control push next week with an event to tout the administration’s progress in combating gun violence,” Politico’s Reid Epstein reports. “The June 18 White House event will mark the first time Biden or President Barack Obama has held a public event on gun control since the Senate rejected expanded background checks for gun purchases April 17. A Biden aide confirmed a gun control event has been scheduled but declined to discuss what will take place.” http://politi.co/11vkrSD
ABC’s RICK KLEIN: Welcome to Round Two. When the Senate fell five votes short of advancing a background-checks bill back in April, President Obama famously declared that it was “just Round One.” Few really expected another bell to ring, and surely not before the fall. But the Newtown families are back in the ring this week, meeting with lawmakers to deliver the personal appeals they are uniquely positioned to do, six months after those tragic shootings in Connecticut. Vice President Joe Biden is planning a guns-related event next week, according to White House officials, the first such push since the failure in the Senate. And now comes New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg with the most controversial part of the push – an effort to deny Democrats who oppose new gun laws money from deep-pocketed New Yorkers. It’s not yet clear that New York donors are ready to take their cues from the outgoing mayor. And it’s really not clear that Senate Democratic leaders want this “help.” (Actually, it’s quite clear that they don’t.) Even aside from calculating how the New York mayor who wants to ban the Big Gulp plays in Arkansas or Alaska, the fundamental problem is that flipping five votes (maybe six now, with a Republican replacing the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg) requires changing a major dynamic that’s showing no signs of budging. Ask yourself this: Will a Sen. Mark Pryor or Sen. Mark Begich be more or less likely to win reelection if he’s seen as caving to the demands of Mayor Bloomberg?
ABC’s ARLETTE SAENZ: While Washington has spent little time focusing on the issue of gun control in recent weeks, the Newtown families have continued their campaign for solutions to gun violence. They have taken their fight to the local level, advocating for the strengthening of gun laws in states like Delaware and New Jersey, and as the Washington Post detailed so poignantly this weekend, the families are still dealing with the emotional toll of losing their young children. Although they are taking a public stand as they meet with lawmakers this week, this is a deeply personal week for the Newtown families as they commemorate the six-month anniversary of the Sandy Hook tragedy. On Thursday, friends and families from Newtown, including Jillian Soto, whose sister Victoria Soto was one of the teachers killed last December, plan to form a human “Ribbon of Remembrance” in front of the Capitol and hold a news conference with lawmakers. In Newtown on Friday, Mayors Against Illegal Guns say they will launch a bus tour called “No More Names: The National Drive to Reduce Gun Violence” to convince senators to reconsider the background check bill.
ABC’s DEVIN DWYER: Here’s something you don’t see every day: A top business lobbyist and major union boss back-patting on the grounds of the White House. It happened yesterday in a coordinated push for an immigration overhaul. “We duel on all kinds of issues, but on this one we’re dueling together,” AFL-CIO chief Richard Trumka told reporters of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce president Tom Donohue. Trumka said both men have literally spent “days together” clearing a path for the bill. “A failure to have a rational and positive immigration program will choke this economy,” Donohue said. Another reason for a double-take: former Commerce Secretary Carlos Guitierrez , who backed Mitt Romney’s mass self-deportation plan, now says a sweeping legalization is the way to go. “The single biggest thing we can do for our economy is to pass this immigration bill,” he said.
ABC’s SHUSHANNAH WALSHE: Today is the day Ed Markey, D-Mass., gets some extra help in his U.S. Senate race against Gabriel Gomez: President Obama is coming in for a campaign rally and fundraiser. It comes just a day after Vice President Biden fundraised for him, teasing the 36 year veteran of the House for having a “distinct advantage over the rest of us: He has a psychiatrist for a wife…I can think of at least a half a dozen people who I wished had a psychiatrist for a wife.” And the jokes don’t stop there. Gomez is out with a new television ad that also begins with some tongue in cheek humor: “Gabriel Gomez is a very bad man. He kills old people. He hates women. He even leaves the toilet seat up,” the narrator says, before noting “This is ridiculous” and pivoting to a critique of Markey. Although Republicans are pointing to the president’s trip as a sign that Democrats are worried about the special election to replace Secretary of State John Kerry less than two weeks away, Markey is still ahead in local polling. Last night the two had another fiery debate, but Gomez is out with a letter this morning trying to show voters he would be willing to work across the aisle. In it he welcomes Obama to Massachusetts and writes that it is “always an honor to have our Commander-in-Chief visit our state.” He even invites Obama to a town hall he’s having this afternoon, while the president is in town. It’s all an effort to make blue Bay Staters believe he will work with Democrats. It’s the job of Markey’s team to show the opposite.
WHAT WE’RE WATCHING
561 EMPTY CHAIRS: RET. GEN. JOHN ALLEN ON THE SACRIFICES OF AFGHANISTAN. Gen. John Allen recently retired from the military following his post as the commander of the International Security Assistance Force, but the memories of the 561 troops who died under his command – and the many thousands who were wounded – have not retired from his mind. “I think about them every day; I think about them at night,” Allen told ABC’s MARTHA RADDATZ, host of “On the Radar.” “And there’s a moment of reflection about those 561 empty chairs around dinner tables.” He described the war in Afghanistan as “a conflict of sacrifice” and said his focus now is to make sure the country doesn’t forget those who have made the ultimate sacrifice. Check out this episode of On the Radar for more of the interview with Gen. Allen and to hear the moving story his wife, Kathy, told about the general following a helicopter crash that killed 30 troops. http://yhoo.it/ZJh7H6
SENATE MOVES FORWARD ON IMMIGRATION BILL. The Senate’s landmark immigration bill passed a key procedural test on Tuesday, the first step on a long road for it to become law. FUSION’s JORDAN FABIAN reports that the Senate voted on an overwhelming, bipartisan basis — 82-15 — to limit debate on the motion to proceed to the bill. Later in the afternoon, senators voted 84-15 to proceed to the bill. In layman’s terms, that means the Senate debate on the bill will officially begin. Now, senators can give floor speeches and offer amendments to the legislation. June will be a busy month, it seems: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has said that he wants to wrap up debate and vote on the bill by the July 4 recess. Compared to legislative failures in 2007 and 2010, the odds that this immigration bill passes look better, but are still not guaranteed. http://abcn.ws/13BUyTU
THE OUTLOOK: Pro-reform advocates were encouraged by the large number of senators on both sides of the aisle who voted yes. The original test vote received 82 aye votes when 60 were needed. But challenges lie ahead that could make its road to passage more difficult in the Senate. Many Republicans who voted to proceed to debate on Tuesday said they are uncommitted to supporting the Gang of Eight’s immigration plan on a final vote. “Today’s vote isn’t a final judgment of their product as much as it is a recognition of the problem,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said on the floor on Tuesday. With 54 seats, Democrats will need to attract at least a handful of Republican senators to acquire 60 votes, the number needed to avoid a filibuster of the final vote of the bill. The bill’s authors have hoped to attract more than 60 votes to urge the House to act.
JOE BIDEN’S FRANK ASSESSMENT OF MASSACHUSETTS RACE. At a D.C. fundraiser for Rep. Ed Markey’s Senate campaign last night, Vice President Joe Biden warned Democrats that minority turnout in the Massachusetts Senate special election might be low because President Obama is not at the top of the ticket, ABC’s ARLETTE SAENZ notes. “There’s a big difference in this race,” Biden said. “Barack Obama’s not at the head of the ticket. And that means those legions of African-Americans and Latinos are not automatically going to come out. No one has energized them like Barack Obama. But he’s not on the ticket. So don’t take this one for granted.” As he asked guests to donate more to Markey’s campaign, Biden argued that the country cannot afford to elect Republicans who fall in line with the beliefs of freshmen Sens. Ted Cruz and Rand Paul. “The last thing in the world we need now is someone who will go down to the United States Senate and support Ted Cruz, support the new senator from Kentucky — or the old senator from Kentucky,” Biden said. “Have you ever seen a time when two freshman senators are able to cower the bulk of the Republican Party in the Senate? That is not hyperbole.” http://abcn.ws/13XgjOl
GOOGLE, FACEBOOK WANT FED’S O.K. TO CLEAR THE RECORD ON NSA REQUESTS. Google is asking the government to allow it to release more information about how many national security requests it received as part of an effort to improve the company’s record on privacy issues, which it says has been damaged by recent press reports, ABC’s ABBY PHILLIP writes. “Assertions in the press that our compliance with these requests gives the U.S. government unfettered access to our users’ data are simply untrue. However, government nondisclosure obligations regarding the number of [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] national security requests that Google receives, as well as the number of accounts covered by those requests, fuel that speculation,” Google’s chief legal officer, Lee Drummond, wrote in a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder and FBI Director Robert Mueller. Shortly after Google released its letter to the government, Facebook made a similar petition that it be free to publish a “transparency” report about its compliance with FISA orders. The requests from the two internet giants come after two stories in the Guardian and the Washington Post suggested that a National Security Agency program, code-named PRISM, gave the government “direct access” to the servers of several internet companies, including Google. http://abcn.ws/13AcOyu
ABC POLL: PUBLIC PREFERENCES DIFFER ON TOP SCOTUS CASES. A majority is holding fast in support for gay marriage, and even more Americans say legally married gays should receive full federal benefits. But opinions shift on another social and legal issue, with three-quarters – including more than seven in 10 whites and nonwhites alike – opposed to consideration of applicants’ race in college admissions, ABC’s GARY LANGER reports. All three issues tested in a new ABC News/Washington Post poll are before the U.S. Supreme Court, with potentially landmark rulings expected by month’s end. Attitudes on gay marriage extend the dramatic shift in recent years toward greater support for gay rights. On affirmative action, the results indicate continued resistance among many Americans to race-based preferences. On the former, 57 percent of Americans support allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally, and 63 percent say the federal government should give the same benefits to legally married gays that it gives to other married couples. On the latter, just 22 percent support allowing universities to consider applicants’ race as a factor in deciding which students to admit; 76 percent are opposed. Criticism of affirmative action – particularly the consideration of race in college admissions – has been as high or higher in previous polls. In a Gallup/CNN/USA Today survey in 2001, for instance, 87 percent said colleges should not be allowed to consider race as a factor in student admission decisions, vs. 76 percent in this poll. http://abcn.ws/171xnbW
WHITE HOUSE POSTPONES CONGRESSIONAL PICNIC. Ah, the annual congressional picnic at the White House. A chance for lawmakers and the president to put partisan bickering aside for a night of barbecue, family fun and carefree hobnobbing. Not so fast, ABC’s MARY BRUCE notes. The White House has postponed this year’s rite of summer. “The White House Congressional Picnic for Members of Congress and their families will not take place in June this year,” read an email from the White House Office of Legislative affairs to members of Congress. “We are hopeful that we will be able to reschedule this event for September.” The White House says the decision was based on the president’s packed schedule and not budget cuts, which have forced the White House to cancel public tours of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. “[It] had to do with the president’s schedule and the fact that he is, as you know, taking several overseas trips in June, and that necessitated trying to postpone this,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters. http://abcn.ws/192Mijz
ON THE AGENDA: President Obama spends the day campaigning and fundraising outside Washington. The president travels to Boston this morning to campaign for Rep. Ed Markey who is vying to fill John Kerry’s Senate seat. This afternoon, the president speaks at a Markey event at the Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center in Roxbury Crossing, Mass. Later, the president travels to Miami for two DNC events at private residences.
IN THE NOTE’S INBOX
–RAND PAUL HEADLINES IMMIGRATION FORUM. The Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles and the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference are hosting an immigration forum today featuring a keynote by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. Sen. Paul’s speech will be followed by a moderated discussion with conservative leaders on immigration reform, including Alfonso Aguilar, the Partnership’s Executive Director, and Helen Krieble, the conservative philanthropist and architect of the “Red Card Solution.” The event will be held today at the Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill.
@Dharapak: He’s working for Dems, but unclear if Obama is asset or liability facing controversies by @sppeoples @joshledermanAP http://www.boston.com/2013/06/12/facing-controversy-obama-political-value-unclear/PZXeUyDvul5Yoaj0PCsxOP/story.html …
@joshtpm: NSA Director Will Testify Before Congress On Wednesday http://livewire.talkingpointsmemo.com/entry/nsa-director-will-testify-before-congress-on-wednesday … via @kt_thomps
@arishapiro: Flying to Jackson, MS today (as an individual, not as a reporter) to help mark the 50th anniversary of Medgar Evers’s assassination.
@jestei: Some of you complaining about cronuts seem to think we’ve forgotten about the time you spent six weeks tweeting about your brackets.