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NPR’s Tamara Keith and Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report with Amy Walter join Amna Nawaz to discuss the latest political news, including a potential bipartisan compromise on guns and the Jan. 6 select committee's first televised hearing to present its findings on the Capitol insurrection.
It is a busy and high-stakes week at the U.S. Capitol, with lawmakers working to find a bipartisan compromise on guns and the January 6 Select Committee holding its first televised hearing to present its findings.
To break it all down, I'm here with Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report With Amy Walter and Tamara Keith of NPR.
And welcome to you both.
I want to begin, of course, with this conversation gun violence prevention measures and where it is here in Washington specifically with lawmakers.
So, Amy, I will put this big question to you, because we have been having this conversation for a few days now. It has been almost 30 years…
Amy Walter, The Cook Political Report:
… 30 years since the assault weapons ban back in 1994, since there's been meaningful measures taken by lawmakers here.
And after every horrific mass shooting, we say, is this time going to be different? Is this time going to be different?
So, based on where the conversations are now, there's been some optimism. Is
Is it going to be different?
Well, it seems like we are having two different discussions right now.
For Republicans, the focus is about behavior more than it is about guns, doing more to flag people who have mental illness, maybe doing more with background checks. But John Cornyn, who's the Republican senator who's leading this — the Republican leading the bipartisan group on that side, is saying, we're not going to do anything that would limit the magazine numbers…
… or take away anybody's guns, or even put a ban on assault weapons back.
So the issue is not about what kind of gun legislation can happen. It's going to happen, really, for Republicans based on making changes to behaviors that they can regulate, i.e. if you have had a domestic record, if there's something in your record that raises those — quote, unquote — "red flags."
And what you hear from Democrats, Chris Murphy saying over and over again this weekend: I'm going to do whatever it takes to get 60 votes.
So, to me, that says, even though he would like to see much more expansive gun reforms…
… he seems at least to be willing to take what Republicans are going to give on those — on those issues in order to get something through.
Tam, where is the president on this? We saw the prime-time address, right, sweeping calls for reforms that are clearly not part of the Senate talks. Is he involved in any of these negotiations?
Tamara Keith, National Public Radio:
No, he's not.
He — as the White House would say, he's giving them space to work this out on their own. There is the potential, whenever a president gets involved, that then the politics harden, that whatever deal that seems possible in these sessions, stop seeming so possible.
He has called repeatedly, as he did in that speech, for a return to an assault weapons ban. He did say, but, if that isn't possible, then at least raise the age to 21 to get an assault weapon.
The Senate is not talking about that. There is no — there are not 60 votes even for that. So he's not going to get what he's asking for. But he is someone who does take the long view, who was involved in passing — integrally involved in passing that assault weapons ban back in the 1990s. He knew it — how long he spent working on that. And he falls back to that when he expresses optimism.
A lot has changed since then that makes it very difficult. But if the Senate were to pass these very modest reforms that Amy talked about, those would be the most sweeping reforms that Congress has passed since the assault weapons ban.
And that is worth noting here, that even incremental progress is progress, given how long it's been. So even if they do move forward just on the red flag issue, right?
But here, here's the thing I want to put to you, because Senator Cornyn was asked about this. And he said, look, if we don't get something done after Uvalde, in particular, that it would — quote — "feed the narrative we just can't get things done in the public interest."
So is that helping to push things along?
I think that's a big piece of this.
But it's also clear — and we have already seen this from one Republican in the House — that for a Republican to come out and talk about guns, in particular, a Republican congressman from Upstate New York saying, yes, I think we should have a ban on assault weapons, his district abuts the — Buffalo, which, of course, had the horrific shooting there a few weeks back.
He's decided not to run for reelection because of the blowback he was getting in his district. And he realized he couldn't win reelection.
It's also part of the political reality.
I want to ask you about another big story we're watching this week, Tam.
The January 6 Committee is going to hold its first public hearing on Thursday. That will be June 9 8:00 p.m. Eastern. We will have live coverage here, 10 months of work. They're going to make — first present to the public in this prime-time kind of presentation.
What are you looking for in all this?
Well, I'm looking for what's new and what's different. And it's not clear yet.
They are promising that there will be new pieces of information. And more than that, members of the committee are promising a narrative that weaves it all together, all of these disparate storylines that people may have picked up along the way or heard, weaves it all together.
But I — what I'm looking for is whether they have any chance at all of breaking through, of — the public has only grown more divided on this. There are more and more Americans who don't consider what happened on January 6 to be a problem at all, who see the people who've been arrested and charged with crimes as martyrs.
And so there's just this dramatic divide over what happened and whether it's a problem. And I don't know if this committee, even with its two Republicans, but two Republicans now in exile, basically, whether they're going to be able to bridge that divide.
What about that?
I mean, Adam Schiff, I should mention, said that the audience are aiming for is one that still has an open mind about these facts.
Who is he talking about?
I don't know how many of those folks are still left. I think the open mind people, at least when I'm listening to voters and a lot of these focus groups, what they want to hear is, what happens next? How do we prevent the this from ever happening again? They're not as interested in relitigating what happens.
What they want to see is people held accountable for doing things that were against the law, and then to say, let's make sure that we find a way to prevent this in the future. And so I think what they need to do — and they're not going to do this necessarily on Monday, but, by the end of these hearings to come out with, and here are our suggestions for ways for this not to happen again.
And to — for those suggestions to sound reasonable and meaningful, that's going to be a challenge too.
Tam, what about the president? Do we know, is he going to be watching?
I do not know. He will be attending the Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles and has a busy schedule that may prevent watching that live, so probably not this first one.
Have we heard anything from the White House about what they expect or whether they're broadly paying attention to this, though?
There's obviously a political calculus to this, right? Will we see some of this in the midterms ahead?
And they are broadly paying attention to it.
They have other really big problems, like inflation. Watching focus groups, as I have done recently, no one mentioned January 6. They all mentioned inflation.
It's interesting to note.
Tamara Keith, Amy Walter, always good to have you here.
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