Bloomberg, Mayors Against Illegal Guns Take Aim at Key Senators

BY Terence Burlij and Christina Bellantoni  March 25, 2013 at 9:24 AM EST

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg; photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images.

The Morning Line

Lawmakers are on recess for the next two weeks, but for 15 senators, there is no escaping New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the upcoming debate over new gun reform legislation.

Mayors Against Illegal Guns, which Bloomberg co-founded in 2006, is launching a $12 million ad buy this week in 13 key states where it says it “can most influence the upcoming Senate vote” on gun control efforts.

The group’s off-year election ad campaign focuses on expanded background checks rather than other gun control measures, such as banning assault rifles or limiting the number of rounds in a magazine, which face stiff opposition on Capitol Hill. A Quinnipiac University poll released earlier this month found 88 percent support for universal background checks, including 85 percent among gun owners.

Here is a sample spot:

The ads will target Republican Sens. Jeff Flake (Arizona), Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson (Georgia), Dan Coats (Indiana), Charles Grassley (Iowa), Susan Collins (Maine), Kelly Ayotte (New Hampshire), Dean Heller (Nevada), Rob Portman (Ohio) and Pat Toomey (Pennsylvania). On the Democratic side, Sens. Mark Pryor (Arkansas), Joe Donnelly (Indiana), Mary Landrieu (Louisiana), Kay Hagan (North Carolina) and Heidi Heitkamp (North Dakota) will see the ads in their states.

Appearing on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday, Bloomberg warned lawmakers that they could face a backlash among their constituents if they opposed the background check measure.

“If 90 percent of the public want something, and their representatives vote against that, common sense says they are going to have a price to pay for that,” Bloomberg said. “The public is going to eventually wake up and say, ‘I want to put in office somebody that will do the things that I think are necessary for this country.’ That’s what democracy is all about. And all we’re trying to do is to tell them what people are doing in Congress, who’s voting for what. And then they can make their own decisions.”

While Bloomberg said he expected to “win” the debate over background checks, he acknowledged that getting a ban on assault-style weapons would be a much tougher sell with lawmakers and the public.

“I don’t think we should give up on the assault weapons ban. But clearly, it is a more difficult issue for a lot of people,” Bloomberg said. “I don’t know that that reflects the NRA’s power. It may be just that people have different views about assault weapons than they do about background checks.”

Following Bloomberg on “Meet the Press,” National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre accused the New York City mayor of trying to “buy America.”

“[H]e can’t spend enough of his $27 billion to try to impose his will on the American public,” LaPierre said. “They don’t want him telling them what food to eat; they sure don’t want him telling them what self-defense firearms to own. And he can’t buy America. He’s so reckless in terms of his comments on this whole gun issue.”

LaPierre also said the background check measures under consideration by the Senate would not prevent the kind of mass shootings seen in recent years. “The whole thing, universal checks, is a dishonest premise. There’s not a bill on the Hill that provides a universal check,” LaPierre contended. “Criminals aren’t going to be checked. They’re not going to do this. The shooters in Tucson, in Aurora, in Newtown, they’re not going to be checked.”

At a Democratic event in New York City Saturday, Vice President Joe Biden referenced Bloomberg’s effort to spend “a great deal of his own money” and the political pressure facing lawmakers. But he said members of Congress facing opposition on gun control back home are “gonna have help.”

“Why the hell we can’t show the courage by standing up and doing what the American people want us to do?” Biden told the Democratic supporters, according to a pool report from the event. “This is gonna be one hell of a fight.”

Biden said the families from Newtown have shown “incredible courage” and he believes “this is a different time. What happened in Newtown shocked the conscience of the American public.”

Lawmakers will face a vote on the gun control package soon after the Senate returns from its Easter and Passover recess April 8, at which time the influence of the Bloomberg-led ad push will be put to the test.

SCOTUS PREVIEW

Ahead of the Supreme Court arguments for two major cases involving gay marriage, Christina talked with four faith leaders about religion’s role in public policy.

Supporting marriage equality were Rabbi Jan Uhrbach of a conservative movement synagogue on Long Island, N.Y., and Rev. Michael Schuenemeyer, a minister for LGBT concerns at the national office of United Church of Christ, the first Protestant church to endorse gay marriage.

On the side opposing same-sex marriages were Father Paulinus Odozor, professor of Christian ethics and moral theology at the University of Notre Dame, and Erik Thoennes, professor and department chair of biblical and theological studies at Biola University and a pastor at Grace Evangelical Free Church in Southern California.

The free-form discussion, which continued on Twitter under the hashtag #churchandstate, allowed each person to share his or her personal views and featured spirited debate from both sides.

You can watch here or below:

The Washington Post’s faith editor hosted a similar discussion last week with Richard Land, Rabbi Carie Cater, an openly lesbian rabbi from Brooklyn, and Ella Robinson, daughter of Gene Robinson, the first openly gay Episcopal bishop.

The New York Times on Sunday offered detailed analysis over the comparisons between the gay marriage cases and the 1973 Roe vs. Wade ruling that legalized abortion. “Judges, lawyers and scholars have drawn varying lessons from that decision, with some saying that it was needlessly rash and created a culture war,” Adam Liptak writes in the front-page piece. The paper also has a nifty graphic clearly outlining the possible outcomes for each case.

The weekend featured a good roundup of stories before the arguments about Proposition 8, California’s same-sex marriage ban, and the constitutionality of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act signed into law by former President Bill Clinton.

The Los Angeles Times’ Maura Dolan speaks with Chief Justice John Roberts’ lesbian cousin, who will attend Tuesday’s arguments on Prop 8. Dolan and David Savage also look at the menu of options facing the justices in the case involving California’s ban on same-sex marriage.

Politico examines how some Republicans’ shift on same-sex marriage may prove a significant fundraising boon for the party. Meanwhile, conservative Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri used her Tumblr to endorse gay marriage.

On Friday for their Week on the Hill column, Allie Morris and Simone Pathe talked with people already lined up in front of the court ahead of the landmark hearings.

LINE ITEMS

  • While you were sleeping Saturday morning, the Senate passed the Democrats’ $3.7 trillion budget, which calls for higher taxes, after considering more than 600 amendments. Voting against it were four Democrats facing tough re-election bids in 2014: Sens. Kay Hagan of North Carolina, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Mark Begich of Alaska and Max Baucus of Montana. But remember — this budget is a long, long way from becoming law.

  • In the all-nighter that was the vote-a-rama, Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., directly confronted Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, around 4 a.m. over the amendment he was pushing, which would tie United Nations funding to China’s abortion policy, by crossing the floor to his desk.

  • The Washington Post’s Zach Goldfarb writes in a front-page analysis that when President Barack Obama signs the continuing resolution to keep the government funded for the next six months, he will “lock into place deep spending cuts that threaten to undermine his second-term economic vision just four months after he won reelection.”

  • Mr. Obama will host a naturalization ceremony Monday at the White House.

  • At the New York event, Biden talked about the Republican Party, saying Democrats won a “decisive victory,” but it is “quite clear they [Republicans] didn’t get the message” or “they got the message and they don’t think it matters.” Biden also said it’s not clear who the leaders of the party are because, “There is nobody you can sit across the table from and shake hands, make a deal with.” Biden also said that House GOP leaders have backed out on deals they made with him five times. “The problem is we have the tail wagging the dog in the Republican Party,” he said.

  • The White House on Friday withdrew Caitlin Halligan’s nomination to sit on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia after she could not overcome GOP opposition. Bloomberg has more here on the president’s court nominees.

  • Mr. Obama returned from his Middle East trip over the weekend. The analysis coming out of his discussions with leaders there suggests he made progress toward peace. Here is Margaret Warner’s final NewsHour dispatch from the trip. You can watch the entire news conference with the president and Jordanian King Abdullah here.

  • Roll Call’s Eliza Newlin Carney writes that as members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus fight for comprehensive immigration reform, they’re bolstered by Latinos’ growing ranks in the House — the result of the caucus’ BOLD PAC’s unprecedented spending in 2012.

  • With bipartisan negotiations over expanded background check legislation having broken down when Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., objected over fears of a gun registry, Democrats may now be able to turn to Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., to help get the job done.

  • The left is pleased Mr. Obama has chosen Melissa Rogers, who was general counsel of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty and is a former director of the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, as the new director of the Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. She replaces Joshua Dubois.

  • Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., said on “Fox News Sunday” that Mr. Obama and former President George W. Bush could have “conceivably been put in jail” for their drug use.

  • There’s nothing like an election to divide a House delegation. The Hill’s Russell Berman dissects the divisions among Georgia’s nine representatives, as at least four of them weigh a run for Chambliss’ seat.

  • Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg wants to get involved in policy debates.

  • Ashley Judd made a rare acknowledgement of the speculation she’ll challenge Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., when referring to his campaign coffers. Speaking before the American Counseling Association, she joked about her mom turning her garage into a campaign headquarters.

  • Noticed: Across the country, pro-Obama volunteers were at farmers’ markets and parades handing out information about the Affordable Care Act as the weekend marked three years since the legislation was signed.

  • The Pentagon is considering building a $49 million prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to replace the secretive Camp 7 prison, which houses the likes of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed.

  • Could Jenny Sanford endorse her ex-husband’s potential political rival?

  • Where are the female Jack Kerouacs? Vanessa Vaselka asks over at Salon.

  • Ramona, a two-year-old Goldendoodle, has invited Bo Obama to be the Grand Marshal of the Oregon Humane Society’s 26th Annual Doggie Dash in Portland on May 11.

  • If you live in the D.C. area and haven’t been to the refurbished Courthouse theater in Arlington, you are missing out. Team Politics may or may not have enjoyed a field trip to see “Zero Dark Thirty” there this winter.

  • Today’s tidbit from NewsHour partner Face the Facts USA: The federal government spends $74 billion on information technology, but a quarter of those projects are hampered by mismanagement.

NEWSHOUR ROUNDUP

  • Mark Shields and David Brooks talked with Judy Woodruff about the Republican Party’s autopsy, immigration, the 10-year anniversary of Iraq war and the president’s trip to Israel.

Watch here or below:

  • Then the guys joined Hari Sreenivasan in our newsroom for the Doubleheader and talked budget and March Madness.

Watch here or below:

  • Don’t miss Hari’s terrific series on broadband access in America. The final piece is here, and the others are linked in the right-hand column.

  • Ray Suarez talked with Denise Kiernan about her book “The Girls of Atomic City.” Cassie Chew has our preview of the story.

  • Ray has been blogging about Ireland’s economy. Don’t miss his piece on the show this week.

  • We looked at Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s plan to take over some of the city’s schools.

  • Jenny Marder explores the universe.

  • A programming note: We’ll bring you the Morning Line this week through Thursday, and then will take a little recess of our own. We’ll return April 8.

TOP TWEETS

Politics Desk Assistant Simone Pathe contributed to this report.

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Questions or comments? Email Christina Bellantoni at cbellantoni-at-newshour-dot-org.

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