By MICHAEL FALCONE ( @michaelpfalcone )
ABC's JEFF ZELENY: As the warning signs and red flags continue to stack up against the shooter in the Navy Yard massacre, the political reality in the Congressional gun debate remains the same. It took just five words yesterday from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to make the point: "We don't have the votes." The lobbying effort from families of gun victims is underway yet again on Capitol Hill today, but even among supporters of expanding background checks and mental health provisions for people trying to buy guys, a deepening sense of pessimism hangs in the air.
ABC's RICK KLEIN: Welcome to town, and to the debate, Gov. Perry. Rick Perry's visit to Maryland isn't a surprise to anyone who lives in the DC media market and has seen his televised pleas for local businesses to uproot to Texas. But his decision today to visit the Beretta USA gun manufacturing facility, in Washington's Maryland suburbs, is something more than that, given the timing. Washington is talking about guns, after a brutal mass shooting just blocks from the Capitol. Families of gun-violence victims are making rounds on Capitol Hill, trying to drum up (almost certainly futile) efforts to revive interest in expanded background checks for gun purchases. Maryland's governor, Martin O'Malley, is not only a 2016 contender, but also a force behind the wave of new state-level gun laws. (Perry and O'Malley will go head-to-head on CNN's "Crossfire" tonight, too.) And so a debate that had faded, even after the Navy Yard shooting, will be rejoined for a day.
OBAMA QUESTIONS BACKGROUND CHECKS: WE ARE 'MORE VULNERABLE'. President Obama yesterday suggested that a better background check system for American gun sales might have prevented Monday's mass shooting at Navy Yard that left 13 people, including the gunman, dead, ABC's DEVIN DWYER reports. "Initial reports indicate that this is an individual who may have had some mental health problems," Obama said of the shooter, in an interview with Spanish-language network Telemundo. "The fact that we do not have a firm enough background-check system is something that makes us more vulnerable to these kinds of mass shootings," Obama said. The president has proposed expanding the existing background-check system to cover sales at gun shows and online. He has also sought $20 million for the Justice Department to help encourage states to enter more information - including mental health records - into the system for firearms purchases. "I've taken steps that are within my control. The next phase now is for Congress to go ahead and move," Obama told Telemundo. His background check proposal remains stalled in Congress. "We don't have the votes," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat, told reporters in the Capitol yesterday. http://abcn.ws/1f3j3Rn
SENATORS TO INVESTIGATE BACKGROUND CHECKS FOR GOVERNMENT CONTRACTORS. Sen. Tom Carper, chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, said yesterday that the Navy Yard massacre raises serious questions about the types of background checks conducted for government contractors and pledged to open an investigation, ABC's JEFF ZELENY reports. "We going to drill down on it," Carper said, speaking to reporters in the Capitol. "What can we learn from this awful experience to reduce the likelihood of future attacks?" Carper, a Delaware Democrat, said he doesn't know whether across-the-board budget cuts known as the sequester played a role in the security at the Navy Yard on Monday. But he and other senators demanded answers for how the suspected killer with a police record, could have received clearance to work as a federal government contractor. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., called for Senate hearings to study the hiring practices of federal contractors at military installations. And Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., echoed the concern and said the suspected Navy Yard shooter, along with Edward Snowden, who leaked national security secrets, were troubling back-to-back examples of how new steps need to be taken for government contractors. http://abcn.ws/1aRm9bW
POLLING NOTE: Eighty-six percent of all Americans in a May ABC News/Washington Post poll said they support expanded and strengthened background checks for all gun sales. Thirteen percent were opposed.
OBAMA ON IRAN DIALOGUE: 'WE SHOULD TEST IT'. President Obama says he is prepared to "test" whether Iran's new president, Hassan Rouhani, is sincere about an apparent desire to rebuild diplomatic ties with the U.S., ABC's DEVIN DWYER notes. "There are indications that Rouhani … is somebody who is looking to open dialogue with the West and with the United States in a way that we haven't seen in the past. And so we should test it," Obama said in an interview with Telemundo. Obama first confirmed publicly during an interview on "This Week" Sunday that he has exchanged letters with Rouhani and remains hopeful the two can "strike a deal" over Tehran's contested nuclear program. He told Telemundo that the content of the letter indicated "the U.S.'s interest in resolving this nuclear issue in a way that would allow Iran to rejoin the international community." "But it's [Iran] going to have to show the international community that it's not trying to weaponize nuclear power," Obama added. Obama and Rouhani will both be in New York City next week to attend the United Nations General Assembly. There has not been a direct meeting between an American president and Iranian leader in more than three decades. http://abcn.ws/150LFsK
OBAMA'S INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS APPROVAL RATING DIPS - AGAIN. A month after getting elected to a second term, more Americans said they approved of President Obama's handling of international affairs than at any other time since late 2009. Nine months later, as Obama faces one of the most vexing foreign policy challenges of his presidency, Americans seem to have changed their minds, ABC's NICKI ROSSOLL notes. According to the most recent ABC News-Washington Post Poll released this week, 47 percent of Americans said they approved of the way Obama was handling international affairs - a 7 percentage point slide since December 2012. Forty-four percent of Americans said they disapproved - a 5 percentage point uptick since last December. Obama's approval rating on international affairs has reached this level at only two other times during his presidency, according to ABC News' polling: once in November 2011 and again in April 2012. Although Syria may be dragging Obama's numbers down now, his scores on international affairs have been on a downward trajectory since the earliest months of his presidency. ABC News-Washington Post polling over the course of Obama's years in office shows his foreign policy approval rating has consistently hovered just below 50 percent since 2011, with his strongest marks coming in the early stages of his first term. He reached an all-time high of 67 percent in April 2009. http://abcn.ws/19btXzW
WHAT WE'RE WATCHING
STEAK FRY POLITICS: HOW TOM HARKIN CONVINCED PRESIDENT OBAMA TO TEST THE WATERS. Sen. Tom Harkin's steak fry has become a rite of passage for ambitious Democrats flirting with running for president. For more than three decades, politicians have made the pilgrimage to Iowa for a prime opportunity to speak, mingle and make an impression on Democratic voters in a key political state that has long been one of the first stops in the road to the White House. But Harkin says it took some convincing to get one recent hopeful to attend: Barack Obama. At the time, back in 2006, Obama was Illinois' junior senator, who told Harkin: "I'm not certain I'm ready for that." "He said 'let me think about it,'" Harkin tells "The Fine Print's" JEFF ZELENY recalling his effort to convince Obama to speak at his 2006 steak fry. http://yhoo.it/1gxI3OA
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
SNUBBED: WHY BRAZIL TURNED OBAMA DOWN. President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil has cancelled a planned state visit to Washington in October over reports that the United States spied on her personal communications and those of other Brazilians, ABC's DEVIN DWYER notes. The decision, confirmed by the White House, is a major and very rare snub of a high-pageantry Washington celebration to honor a close ally. It came after President Obama and national security adviser Susan Rice had invested significant time and personal attention to try to salvage the trip. In a statement, Rousseff said the alleged spying was "incompatible with the democratic coexistence between friendly countries" and that her concerns about U.S. activities have not been sufficiently addressed. "Given the absence of a timely review of those practices with corresponding explanations and commitment to cease the interception activities, the conditions for a visit on the previously agreed-upon date are not present," she said. http://abcn.ws/1aQYOXZ
IN THE NOTE'S INBOX
PROGRESSIVE CHANGE CAMPAIGN COMMITTEE ANNOUNCES FIRST ENDORSEMENT OF 2014 CYCLE. Today, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee endorsed Massachusetts State Rep. Carl Sciortino for Congress in the race to fill Ed Markey's former House seat in the state's 5th Congressional district. According to a press release, "This is the PCCC's first endorsement of the 2014 cycle. Carl has already been endorsed by leading House progressives including, Reps. Raul Grijalva, Keith Ellison, Alan Grayson, and Mark Takano. The Progressive Change Campaign Committee has over 5,000 members in MA-5, more than 33,000 members in Massachusetts, and nearly 1 million members across the country." In an e-mail message going out to supporters today, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee's Matt Wall writes, "Carl Sciortino showed bold leadership in the PCCC's first-ever Open Debate by supporting prosecuting Wall Street bankers, Elizabeth Warren's Glass-Steagall bill, increasing Social Security benefits, Medicare-For-All, and reversing Citizens United. Carl was a leader on Syria by being the first to announce he opposed bombing Syria and successfully getting his opponents to follow his lead a week later."
@matthewjdowd: Good morning friends. American crisis: poverty of the soul. http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2013/09/poverty-of-the-soul-time-to-address-the-real-issue/ …
@samsteinhp: The argument that you can't legislate after every mass shooting would make sense if you actually passed legislation after a mass shootings
@TomBevanRCP: Obama: Americans Wrong About Obamacare; "It's Going To Be A Good Deal" http://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2013/09/18/obama_americans_wrong_about_obamacare_its_going_to_be_a_good_deal.html#.UjmechKoYAg.twitter …