The TAKE with Rick Klein
It's rolling out as what President Joe Biden can get done now -- an attempt by the new administration to do what it can to address gun violence, while waiting on what Congress seemingly can't.
But for a range of reasons, this might not be the last action to come on the topic of gun safety this year. There are dynamics that suggest further steps are possible -- including some, yes, that would require congressional approval.
"This is an initial set of actions," a senior administration official said in outlining executive orders that will, among other things, attempt to regulate "ghost guns" built from kits in addition to braces used to make firearms more deadly. "It is long past time for Congress to act."
A series of mass shootings have, sadly, kept the topic in the news. Some of the actions the Biden administration is taking Thursday could serve to keep it there, with federal agencies tasked with advising communities and putting out additional data on gun violence.
Meanwhile, the National Rifle Association is a vastly diminished force in politics. The organization is actually on trial this week in federal bankruptcy proceedings, with top executive Wayne LaPierre accused of trying to duck a probe into the group's finances.
Debates over guns have gotten close but not quite there in recent years, and Congress is hardly a model of bipartisanship these days. But across-the-aisle talks have continued, and the president and his new attorney general are now lending their voices.
The RUNDOWN with Averi Harper
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, Biden's chief medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci and Biden's chief science officer for COVID-19 response Dr. David Kessler are slated to testify in a congressional hearing next Thursday on the progress of COVID-19 vaccine distribution and the spread of coronavirus variants driving an uptick in cases across the country.
Although more than 63 million Americans are fully vaccinated, according to the Department of Health and Human Services, the number of COVID-19 cases has steadily increased since March 20. Fauci said Wednesday there is no precise vaccine milestone that will guarantee a return to normalcy.
"I don't know what that number is. I can't say it's going to be this percent, but we'll know it when we see it," said Fauci during a White House coronavirus briefing. "It'll be obvious as the numbers come down rather dramatically."
States and localities aren't waiting for a dramatic drop in cases to return to a post-pandemic sort of normal. Several states, including Arkansas, Iowa and Mississippi, have lifted mask mandates in clear defiance of CDC guidance. States like Texas and Arizona have ended capacity restrictions. California Gov. Gavin Newsom, who is facing recall efforts at least in part because of strict COVID-19 precautions, now has plans to "fully open" the nation's most populated state by June 15, though the criteria for reopening is unclear.
Case surges driven by coronavirus variants remain a persistent threat. The challenge for the nation's health experts is to get restriction-weary Americans to listen.
The TIP with Meg Cunningham
As Georgia faces marketplace backlash over its new, restrictive voting law, Democrats and Republicans in Kentucky are celebrating Gov. Andy Beshear signing the state's bipartisan election reform bill into law.
Some of those temporary changes will stick around, thanks to the new law, including three days of early voting, vote centers, an online portal for eligible voters to request and track their absentee ballots and drop-box requirements for every county. Kentucky's Republican Secretary of State Michael Adams praised the bipartisan win in the bill's signing ceremony on Wednesday-- which makes the state the only one, so far, with a Republican-controlled legislature to expand voter access, according to the New York Times.
"I'm very grateful to Gov. Beshear for signing this bill, which makes our elections both more accessible and more secure. At the same time, while other states are caught up in partisan division, here in Kentucky, we're leading the nation in making it both easier to vote and harder and cheat," Adams said Wednesday.
ABC News' "Start Here" podcast. Thursday morning's episode features ABC News White House correspondent Karen Travers, who outlines the executive actions President Joe Biden plans to take on guns. ABC News Senior National correspondent Matt Gutman tells us what we now know about Tiger Woods' Los Angeles car crash. And ABC News Senior Editorial producer John Santucci brings us the latest on embattled Congressman Matt Gaetz. http://apple.co/2HPocUL
ABC News' "Powerhouse Politics" podcast. Amid the GOP-led culture wars, Republicans have "veered" from their principle of limited government, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, a staunch, longtime conservative, told ABC News Political Director Rick Klein and Chief Washington Correspondent Jonathan Karl. He added that the GOP doesn't need to "engage in every cultural battle." https://bit.ly/3oMKdUP
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