Slight thaw in gun politics opens window for Senate: The Note

Congressional leaders will have to continue to give their members room to talk.

May 31, 2022, 6:00 AM

The TAKE with Rick Klein

If this time is to be different, it's going to have to be different in a whole bunch of ways all at the same time.

Getting a Senate bill on guns will require actual compromise among lawmakers with reputations and records on the line. It will have to happen with President Joe Biden on the legislative sidelines -- notwithstanding his vow for action on the ground in Uvalde, Texas, on Sunday -- and with former President Donald Trump sidelined, period.

Mostly, the thaw in gun politics that has -- with a few exceptions -- settled in in the week since the Uvalde tragedy will have to last long enough for senators' Zoom meetings to bear fruit. The seeds may be in what's being ruled neither in nor out among the lawmakers involved in the discussions.

PHOTO: Sen. John Cornyn attends a press conference at Uvalde High School on May 25, 2022 in Uvalde, Texas.
Sen. John Cornyn attends a press conference at Uvalde High School on May 25, 2022 in Uvalde, Texas.
Jordan Vonderhaar/Getty Images

Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., told ABC's Jonathan Karl on "This Week" that much as he supports things like an assault-weapons ban and raising the minimum age for long-gun purchases to 21, such provisions might not be able to make it into a final package that gets at least 10 Republicans joining with Democrats in support.

"Maybe that's the most important thing we could do is just show that progress is possible and that the sky doesn't fall for Republicans if they support some of these commonsense measures," Murphy said.

One other element that would have to be different: The top Senate Democrat and top Senate Republican will have to continue to give their members room to talk. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer pointedly did not schedule a vote on a bill he knew would fail, and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell deputized a top lieutenant who happens to represent Texas, Sen. John Cornyn, to lead the GOP side of talks.

Cornyn, who chose not to keep a scheduled appearance at the National Rifle Association meeting in Houston on Friday, told reporters on Memorial Day that he would resume talks with senators in both parties on Tuesday "to see if we can agree on a basic framework about how we go forward."

The RUNDOWN with Alisa Wiersema

With two of his chosen candidates in Georgia's statewide races losing their primaries and his Senate pick in Pennsylvania facing an ongoing primary recount, the luster of a Trump endorsement appears to have dulled over the course of the first major midterm primaries.

The fallout is raising the stakes even higher for Trump's quest to unseat Rep. Liz Cheney -- his most outspoken critic in Congress -- from her at-large Wyoming seat. Trump is backing Harriet Hageman, an attorney who previously attempted to block his ascent to become the party's 2016 presidential nominee. (Hageman has said she "came to rally behind President Trump when he won the nomination.")

PHOTO: Former President Donald Trump speaks at a rally on May 28, 2022, in Casper, Wyoming.
Former President Donald Trump speaks at a rally on May 28, 2022, in Casper, Wyoming.
Chet Strange/Getty Images

At a rally in Casper, Wyoming, over the weekend, Trump attacked Cheney and her political family by calling her a "RINO" and referring to the Cheneys more broadly as "diehard globalists and warmongers" who "have never met a war they didn't like."

"I'm going to reclaim Wyoming's lone congressional seat from that Virginian who currently holds it," Hageman said.

Despite a litany of attacks from the former president, Cheney's reelection campaign has raked in more than $10 million in fundraising and remains steadfast in rejecting Trump as the Republican leader. The move marks a significant difference between how other non-Trump endorsed conservatives have so far navigated the campaign landscape -- most acknowledged the former president's influence within the party, rather than flatly opposing him.

The choice still presents Cheney with an uphill battle given that Republicans from her own state party attempted to reject her. The upcoming public Jan. 6 hearings are also likely to reinvigorate attacks against Cheney given her position as one of just two Republicans on the panel investigating the events surrounding the insurrection.

In a likely preface of the battle to come on the campaign trail, on Saturday Hageman told supporters, "We're fed up with the Jan. 6 commission and those people who think they can gaslight us."

The TIP with Hannah Demissie

Texas lawmakers are once again in the national spotlight over their state's impact on national political trends -- this time over gun legislation in the wake of the Uvalde shooting.

Most leading Republicans from the Lone Star State are so far sidestepping the public's desire for more robust gun control measures.

On Friday, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who is up for reelection in 2024, spoke at the NRA convention in Houston. He dismissed the need for gun legislation.

"It is both complicated and multifaceted. It is a lot easier to moralize about guns and to shriek about those you disagree with politically, but it has never been about guns," Cruz said.

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, whose term ends in 2027, took a different approach than Cruz and pulled out of speaking at the convention altogether. He is also helping lead the GOP side of congressional negotiations about a possible gun bill, though he has said those talks are in the early stage.

PHOTO: Senator Ted Cruz speaks at the NRA-ILA Leadership Forum during the National Rifle Association annual convention in Houston, on May 27, 2022.
Senator Ted Cruz speaks at the NRA-ILA Leadership Forum during the National Rifle Association annual convention in Houston, on May 27, 2022.
Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

Cornyn is also a co-author of the Constitutional Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act. If passed, it would allow individuals with concealed carry privileges in their home state to carry in other states.

Up for reelection this year, Gov. Greg Abbott also decided not to attend the NRA convention but still took part in the event by sending in a pre-recorded speech.

"There are thousands of laws on the books across the country that limit the owning or using of firearms -- laws that have not stopped madmen from carrying out evil acts on innocent people and peaceful communities," Abbott said in his remarks.

His NRA speech contradicted what he told the Uvalde community that same day during a press conference.

"With regard to a special [legislative session], let me just say this: All options are on the table," Abbott said then about how Texas would combat gun violence. "Do we expect laws to come out of this devastating crime? The answer is absolutely yes."

Meanwhile, Democrats in the state have been urging leaders to enact gun control laws to prevent more mass shootings. Texas Senate Democrats sent a letter to Abbott demanding a special session to pass such legislation.

In the letter, the Democrats called for the special session to include passage of legislation that would raise the minimum age to purchase a firearm to 21, require a universal background check for all gun sales and implement "red flag" laws.


Texas Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn, who represent the state where an 18-year-old gunman carried out one of the nation's deadliest school shootings last week, are among Congress' top recipients of contributions from pro-gun donors, campaign finance records show. Cruz, in particular, has taken in the most money from pro-gun individuals and groups of anyone in the current Congress, amassing $442,000 over the course of his career, according to an analysis of disclosure reports by the nonpartisan campaign finance research group OpenSecrets.

NUMBER OF THE DAY, powered by FiveThirtyEight

861. That's the number of women who died from causes related to pregnancy and birth in 2020, according to recently released government data, giving America one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world for a wealthy country. And as FiveThirtyEight's Maggie Koerth and Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux write, it is Black women in the U.S. who are disproportionately impacted. Read more from Maggie and Amelia on why overturning Roe v. Wade would likely make maternal mortality rates in the U.S. even worse.


ABC News' "Start Here" Podcast. Start Here begins Tuesday morning with a timeline of the Uvalde elementary school shooting from ABC's Aaron Katersky. Then, ABC's MaryAlice Parks explains what is being done to prevent potential mass shootings in the future. And, ABC's Gio Benitez details Memorial Day flight cancellations amid COVID-19 staffing shortages.


  • President Joe Biden will host Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand at 11:00 a.m. ET at the White House -- the first visit of a leader from New Zealand since 2014 -- to discuss a continued partnership and a shared vision for an open Indo-Pacific.
  • The president will meet Vice President Kamala Harris at 12:00 p.m. ET for a private lunch.
  • The president will meet with Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell to discuss the state of the American and global economy and rising inflation at 1:15 p.m. ET.
  • The president will convene with K-POP group BTS to discuss Asian inclusion and representation and addressing anti-Asian hate crimes and discrimination at 3:00 p.m. ET in a closed meeting.
  • Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre will hold a press briefing at 2:30 p.m. ET.

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The Note is a daily ABC News feature that highlights the day's top stories in politics. Please check back on Wednesday for the latest.

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