Mitch McConnell says he won't consider gun violence legislation until Trump takes a real position, while Trump is resorting to insult comedy to excuse his own inaction.
Last month, after dozens died in mass shootings in Ohio and Texas, Donald Trump suggested he was open to taking action to require universal background checks for gun purchases and to disarm people deemed serious threats to themselves and others. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell promised that such a debate would be "front and center."
In the weeks that have followed, the National Rifle Association has lobbied both to avoid any action and both have pulled back from their promises. Meanwhile, dozens of additional mass shootings have left Americans dead and injured.
On Tuesday, McConnell vowed to continue blocking any Senate consideration of legislation to stop gun violence until Trump stops prevaricating and makes it clear what he actually supports.
And on Wednesday, Trump tried to pin blame for his own inaction on former Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-TX), a 2020 presidential hopeful who has spoken out passionately for action on guns, notably after the tragedy in his hometown of El Paso.
McConnell, widely acknowledged as one of the most powerful congressional leaders of his time, repeated his argument that until the president stops delaying, no action is possible.
"I still await guidance from the White House as to what he thinks he's comfortable signing and, if and when that happens, then we'll have a real possibility of actually changing the law and, hopefully, making some progress." Reminded by a reporter that he is, in fact, the Senate majority leader and could bring up legislation — including a gun bill that passed in the House months ago — McConnell snickered.
"I know I'm the majority leader," he retorted. "But I'm telling you I want to know what the president supports. It's not unimportant to my members." Absent that, he decreed, the Senate would remain in a "holding pattern."
But that "holding pattern" of inaction seems unlikely to end any time soon. Trump, who ran for president in 2016 claiming to be one of the world's greatest dealmakers, blamed his inability to make a deal to stop gun violence on O'Rourke's calls for an assault weapons ban.
"Dummy Beto made it much harder to make a deal," he tweeted, saying that his call for an assault weapons ban had suddenly convinced "many" that Democrats "just want to take your guns away."
This claim is stunning given that Trump himself told the NRA in April that "leading Democrats have proposed banning new guns and confiscating existing guns from law-abiding citizens."
Rather than act on gun violence, McConnell's Senate is set to spend Wednesday confirming Trump's picks for assistant secretary of state for the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, and two Treasury Department positions.
And rather than take a position on gun legislation, Trump spent the morning tweeting a conservative comedian's praise of himself.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.