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Expansive gun law to test Democrats

BY Domenico Montanaro, Terence Burlij, Simone Pathe and Rachel Wellford  April 24, 2014 at 9:06 AM EDT
Dent Myer, owner of Wildman's Civil War Surplus, stands outside his store in Kennesaw, Georgia. Gov. Nathan Deal signed a broad gun rights expansion bill Wednesday. Photo by Chris Rank/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Dent Myer, owner of Wildman’s Civil War Surplus, stands outside his store in Kennesaw, Georgia. Gov. Nathan Deal signed a broad gun rights expansion bill Wednesday. Photo by Chris Rank/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Morning Line

Today in the Morning Line:

  • How do Michelle Nunn, Jason Carter deal with Georgia gun law?
  • Obama says more Russia sanctions are “teed up”
  • Landrieu gets down to business
  • Is the oldest member of Congress being pushed out because of his age?

Georgia gun law: Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal signed into law Wednesday one of, if not the, most expansive gun rights laws in the country. The law allows Georgians with concealed carry permits to take guns with them into schools, bars, and churches — if church leaders opt in — as well as parts of airports and government buildings, NewsHour’s Simone Pathe reports. Deal faces a primary for re-election May 20th. His likely Democratic general election opponent Jason Carter, a state senator and former President Jimmy Carter’s grandson, voted for it. But over on the Senate side, Michelle Nunn (D) faces a bigger test. She has tacked to the middle in her first two ads, including one up Wednesday in which she calls for banning members of Congress from becoming lobbyists, withholding congressional pay unless a budget is passed and eliminating health care subsidies for members of Congress. When it comes to this law, Nunn said she’s against guns being allowed in churches or on college campuses (that was taken out of the bill), but she “embraced” background checks like in the Manchin-Toomey bill and wouldn’t say if she would be in favor of reducing magazine clips from 15 to 10 like in New Jersey. “It’s not something that I’m focused on right now,” said Nunn, one of only two (maybe three) candidates Democrats hope can pull off an upset in a red state.

Carter, who seemed a bit uncomfortable talking about national issues this week, said no one issue was more “geographically polarizing” than guns. He has a line to walk, too, because he needs Democrats in this demographically evolving state to come out for him in full force. To the bigger point, it is fascinating that — despite efforts by new groups with high-profile advocates like former Rep. Gabby Giffords or Mike Bloomberg — in the year after the Sandy Hook shootings, more gun laws passed loosening rather than tightening gun laws. In all, 109 laws passed relating to guns — 70 loosened restrictions, 39 tightened them. It’s precisely why the new Bloomberg $50 million effort is unlikely to change much at all.

Obama sends new warning to Russia: President Barack Obama on Thursday charged that Russia had failed to abide by the agreement reached last week in Geneva to ease tensions in Ukraine and said that fresh sanctions are “teed up.” Speaking during a press conference with Japanese Prime Minister Abe in Tokyo, the president said: “We continue to see militias and armed men taking over buildings, harassing folks who are disagreeing with them, and destabilizing the region, and we haven’t seen Russia step up and discourage that.” Mr. Obama said there would be “consequences” if Russia did not change course in Ukraine. For his part, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Thursday there would be “consequences” for Ukraine if it used force against pro-Russian separatists in the eastern part of the country. The fact that the situation in Ukraine has remained front and center during Mr. Obama’s visit to Asia highlights the difficulty the president has found in putting a greater focus on diplomatic relations with the region. On that front, the president rejected suggestions an Asia-Pacific trade deal was in danger, saying that “bold steps” were needed to reach an agreement. “I continue to believe we can get this done,” he said. But in a nod to opposition from Democratic lawmakers and labor groups back home, the president said that would require pushing “our constituencies beyond their current comfort levels.”

2014 – Landrieu banks on business: Want to point to one reason why — despite how vulnerable incumbent Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana is — that Landrieu has a fighting chance? The Wall Street Journal reports: “The political arms of large corporations have given nearly five times as much money to Sen. Mary Landrieu as to her Republican opponent, Rep. Bill Cassidy, according to fundraising data compiled by The Wall Street Journal. Industry groups have run television advertisements supporting her re-election. And several big Washington trade associations that normally back Republicans, led by energy groups, are throwing their support behind the incumbent.” Of all the Democrats running, Landrieu’s race may be the most important. In many ways, she’s a keystone. It’s hard to see Democrats holding the Senate if she loses, but it’s also hard to see them losing the Senate if she wins.

Ageism in House race? It’s not like Congress is full of spring chickens, let’s be honest. But Ralph Hall outdoes them all. The Texas Republican is 91, the oldest member of Congress. (The average age in Congress, by the way, is a lot lower than we thought — 57 in the House and 62 in the Senate.) Hall is facing a brutal reelection fight, as conservative outside groups have rallied against him (and for 48-year-old John Ratcliffe, a former U.S. attorney). And for no other sin than his age, it seems, something Ratcliffe dances around. “I’ve made tenure a bigger issue than anything else,” Ratcliffe told The Hill. “The fact that Congressman Hall has been in there 34 years is anathema to the Constitution.” Last week, he told the Texas Tribune: “I haven’t made age an issue in the campaign,” stressing instead Hall’s length of service. Yet his campaign slogan is, “A New Generation of Conservative Leadership.” For his part, Hall is, well, facing it head on. He says, closing out a peppy ad, “By gosh, I’ve got room for a few more wrinkles.” A runoff in this race takes place May 27th.

Daily Presidential Trivia: On this day in 1897, William Price became the first to be named White House news reporter. What organization did he go on to be the first president of?
Be the first to Tweet us the correct answer @NewsHour, @rachelwellford, @DomenicoPBS, and you’ll get a Morning Line shout-out. Congratulations to Keith L Wycoff (@WycoffL) for getting yesterday’s answer – John Adams in 1800.

LINE ITEMS

  • The Department of Homeland Security’s acting inspector general “altered and delayed investigations at the request of senior administration officials,” according to a Washington Post preview of a report from the Senate Homeland Security and Government Operations Committee.
  • The Washington Post’s editorial board blasts Mr. Obama for punting on Keystone.
  • Americans for Prosperity revised an ad released Wednesday attacking Sen. Mark Udall for his support of the health care law after it was revealed the spot featured an image of the Colorado Democrat and Mr. Obama during an event following the 2012 Aurora movie theater shootings.
  • A Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday shows Udall with a narrow 45 percent to 44 percent lead over GOP Rep. Cory Gardner.
  • The Los Angeles Times reports: “The Justice Department on Wednesday unveiled the most ambitious federal clemency program in 40 years, inviting thousands of jailed drug offenders and other convicts to seek early release as part of a new program intended to correct sentencing injustices and relieve prison overcrowding.”
  • The Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that victims of child pornography should be paid restitution from convicted offenders, however they disagreed on the amount owed to the victims.
  • Republican National Committee chair Reince Priebus is calling Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid “so dirty and so unethical” for attacking the Koch brothers on his Senate website and Twitter. Reid spokesman Adam Jentleson responded: “Republicans rushing to defend the billionaire Koch brothers is just further evidence that when the Koch brothers say, ‘Jump,’ Republicans ask, ‘How high?’”
  • Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback signed a bill Wednesday that stops local governments from enforcing their own gun laws and from regulating open carry.
  • In Time’s “100 Most Influential People,” New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie writes of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker: “One of the most difficult challenges is standing up for what you believe in when faced with relentless public attacks. Scott Walker faced that test and passed it with flying colors.”
  • The New York Times’ Ashley Parker looks at some of the most talked about ads so far.
  • Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell released a radio ad Wednesday attacking his GOP primary opponent, Matt Bevin, for attending a cockfighting rally last month.
  • Mother Jones’ David Corn writes that Sen. Rand Paul’s recent praise for Ronald Reagan doesn’t line up with some of the Kentucky Republican’s past statements.
  • Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz, who’s running to replace Rep. Tom Latham, kept an aide on state payroll through the end of 2012 after he had eliminated his job as part of a cost-cutting measure in May of that year.
  • The Republican State Leadership Committee is debuting the .gop domain name.
  • Keep an eye on the Rundown blog for breaking news throughout the day, our home page for show segments, and follow @NewsHour for the latest.

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Questions or comments? Email Domenico Montanaro at dmontanaro-at-newshour-dot-org or Terence Burlij at tburlij-at-newshour-dot-org.

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