The Note: Delayed choices stir intra-party battles

PHOTO: Morning clouds cover Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, April 12, 2019, as Congress leaves for a two week recess.PlayJ. Scott Applewhite/AP, FILE
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To impeach or not to impeach? It looks like a hard no on Justice Brett Kavanaugh, and a lean no on President Donald Trump.

To use military force against Iran or choose not to? Will a new national security adviser have his advice followed?

To deal or not to deal on gun legislation? And -- if it's a no -- can the president really just blame Beto O'Rourke?

PHOTO: Morning clouds cover Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, April 12, 2019, as Congress leaves for a two week recess. J. Scott Applewhite/AP, FILE
Morning clouds cover Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, April 12, 2019, as Congress leaves for a two week recess.

So much of the political environment is frozen in place around big decisions delayed at the moment. All of the above have implications on intra-party dynamics as well as the 2020 presidential race.

The choices confronting the White House and congressional Democrats are not new. But they get to fundamental questions about party loyalties and political calculations, in an uncertain economic and world environment.

A variety of forces are pushing for answers to longstanding questions. Answers have been delayed, but they can't be postponed indefinitely.

The RUNDOWN with MaryAlice Parks

There is plenty to be skeptical about as conversations between the Trump administration and Republicans on Capitol Hill continue over the topic of possible gun safety reforms. Still, it is noteworthy that conversations are taking place among the rank-and-file GOP caucus members at all. A senators-only lunch on Wednesday was consumed by gun control, according to members, and -- separately -- Attorney General William Barr was shopping a proposal to members to possibly expand background checks to all commercial sales, including gun shows and online sales.

The obvious elephant not in the room: The president.

No one seems clear -- still -- as to whether he of all people supports the plan Barr was floating. A spokesman for Trump distanced the White House from a document Barr had in hand, adding confusion and frustration to the tough conversations. The lack of clear support from 1600 Pennsylvania has the potential of killing any proposals before they are barely out of the gate and puts into question Barr's role all together.

PHOTO: Attorney General William Barr spends his second day on Capitol Hill speaking with Congressional members about gun legislation, Sept. 18, 2019. Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call via Newscom
Attorney General William Barr spends his second day on Capitol Hill speaking with Congressional members about gun legislation, Sept. 18, 2019.

"The president has made clear he's interested in any meaningful, workable measures that can provide greater security to the American people. I've been up here gathering perspective, kicking around some ideas, so I'm in a better position to advise the president," the attorney general told reporters. "The president right now is gathering information."

Of course, it is not crazy for the president to dance with Congress and try to gauge the interest of members on various proposals before publicly offering support. But if that is the goal, it is wild that the White House and the attorney general seem to have their messaging lines crossed.

The TIP with Justin Gomez

South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg has released the first part of his long-awaited "Medicare for All Who Want It" health care plan after touting his position for months.

He said his plan will create a high-quality, comprehensive public insurance option that leaves private and employer-based insurance plans in place. Private insurers will be incentivized to compete with affordable costs and reduce prices, but Buttigieg ultimately sees Americans moving over to the government option, which he says will "naturally lead to 'Medicare for All.'"

PHOTO: Democratic presidential hopeful and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg speaks with a voter following an event with Supermajority, Sept. 17, 2019, in Columbia, S.C. Meg Kinnard/AP
Democratic presidential hopeful and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg speaks with a voter following an event with Supermajority, Sept. 17, 2019, in Columbia, S.C.

Elements of the mayor's plan include a cap on premiums at 8.5% for everyone, ends surprise billing by requiring all providers at in-network facilities to be in-network, the creation of income-based subsidies to guarantee affordability and a central clearinghouse to process all medical bills.

The plan does not say how much it will cost or how it would be paid for, but a senior campaign official said that it's price tag is expected to be between $1.3 and $1.5 trillion over 10 years, and that will come from a mix of corporate tax increases and cost savings. Asked if middle-class Americans would also see a tax increase, the official said no.

ONE MORE THING

Rep. Joe Kennedy III, D-Mass., the grandson of Robert F. Kennedy, will formally announce a 2020 primary challenge to Sen. Ed Markey on Saturday in Boston, according to a source familiar with his plans, before kicking off a statewide tour to promote his candidacy for the Democratic nomination.

THE PLAYLIST

ABC News' "Start Here" podcast. Thursday morning's episode features ABC News Senior White House correspondent Cecilia Vega and ABC News contributor Col. Stephen Ganyard who hash out what effect, if any, new sanctions will have on Iran and what the Trump administration's next move could be. Then, ABC News Chief Justice correspondent Pierre Thomas explains why a mechanic accused of tampering with an airplane is being questioned over possible terrorist ties. http://apple.co/2HPocUL

ABC News' "Powerhouse Politics" podcast. ABC News Political Director Rick Klein and Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl celebrate the life and legacy of Cokie Roberts with ABC News colleagues Karen Travers and Avery Miller. http://apple.co/2Zfz5nD

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TODAY

  • Former Vice President Joe Biden hosts a fundraiser in Chicago.
  • Former Rep. Beto O'Rourke, D-Texas, hosts a town hall in Aurora, Colorado, at 5 p.m. (MDT).
  • Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., continues her "Blue Wall" tour across the Midwest, with stops in Detroit, Milwaukee and Random Lake, Wisconsin.
  • Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., holds a rally at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill beginning at 5:30 p.m.
  • Both Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Kamala Harris, D-Calif., head to Iowa for campaign stops. Warren hosts a town hall in Iowa City and Harris holds events in Coralville and Cedar Rapids. Former Rep. Joe Sestak, D-Pa., also travels to Iowa, holding campaign events in Ottumwa and Oskaloosa.
  • Tom Steyer joins a Global Climate Strike in Washington at 11 a.m.
  • More than half of the current Democratic field attends a two-day Climate Town Hall, hosted by Georgetown University and MSNBC, in Washington. The first day's lineup includes: Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Juli├ín Castro, former Rep. John Delaney, D-Md., Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, Sanders, Marianne Williamson and Andrew Yang.
  • Bullock attends a town hall hosted by the American Federation of Teachers, alongside AFT President Randi Weingarten, in Washington at 4 p.m.
  • Castro and Steyer attend the CHCI 42nd Annual Awards Gala in Washington at 7 p.m.
  • Download the ABC News app and select "The Note" as an item of interest to receive the day's sharpest political analysis.

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