Biden Presses Case for Gun Control as Senate Readies for Debate

Image: Biden Presses Case for Gun Control as Senate Readies for Debate Vice President Joe Biden, left, looks on as President Obama speaks during an event on protecting children from gun violence March 28 in the East Room of the White House.

Monday, 01 Apr 2013 09:55 AM

By Lisa Barron

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Vice President Joe Biden is stepping up the pressure on senators with daily phone calls and increased face-to-face meetings in the administration's lobbying effort to pass new gun control measures as the Senate prepares to debate the issue later this month.

According to The Hill newspaper, Biden has recently met in private with Republican senators including John McCain of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, and Johnny Isakson of Georgia. Citing an unnamed senior administration official, the newspaper reported Monday that the vice president plans to spend even more time on Capitol Hill making the administration's case.

“There are always a lot of dark alleys on these issues, but he's been trying to shake that all out. He's making sure he's hearing from everybody and knowing where the pressure points are,” The Hill quoted the official as saying.

During a conference call organized last week by Mayors Against Illegal Guns, Biden reportedly said that he and his staff had “met with every possible stakeholder out there, a total of 229 different groups,” including governors, mayors, law enforcement officials, mental health experts, religious groups, and “the NRA itself.”

Biden's role in keeping the pressure on all parties involved is a critical one, according to Democratic consultant Chris Kofinis, who told The Hill that President Barack Obama is "the strategist" and Biden "the tactician" in the fight for tougher gun laws.

"I think the president is laying out the frame, the message, the vision about where we need to go and why," Kofinis said. "The vice president understands how to make that happen. You have two interlocking pieces that work very well together."

The effort to keep up contact with key Republicans on the issue may be paying off. Sen. Graham told CNN on Sunday that he would not join a GOP filibuster of a Democratic-sponsored bill that includes universal background checks on gun sales unless Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid refuses senators the right to introduce amendments.

Graham and other Republican senators are pushing a measure that would make it harder for the mentally ill to obtain firearms, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Republican Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky, Ted Cruz of Texas, and Mike Lee of Utah reportedly said last week that they planned to filibuster any legislation that serves “as a vehicle for any additional gun restrictions.” Florida Sen. Marco Rubio has also threatened to join them.

The bill expected on the Senate floor will not include measures for a renewed ban on certain semiautomatic weapons and new limits on high-capacity ammunition.

But Reid has vowed to allow votes on those proposals as amendments, and Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut said on Sunday that he plans to act on that promise.

“The majority leader has assured me and other proponents of these measures that we can offer amendments on both the assault weapons ban and the prohibition on high-capacity magazines. So, there will be votes and I intend to spearhead that amendment on the high-capacity magazines,” he said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

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