Washington Brief: Lawmakers Return to Capitol Hill Under Pressure to Act on Gun Legislation

Top Stories

  • Lawmakers returns to Capitol Hill today under pressure to take action on gun control legislation, and they’re most likely to consider a measure from Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) that would encourage states and federal agencies to submit criminal-conviction records to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. The House passed legislation in December that would implement that policy, as part of a concealed-carry reciprocity bill, but it’s unclear whether Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) will bring up Cornyn’s bill without the concealed weapons provision. (The Wall Street Journal)
  • A Democratic memo released by the House Intelligence Committee said the Federal Bureau of Investigation was probing ties between Trump campaign associates and Russia weeks before receiving the controversial dossier compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele. In a tweet, President Donald Trump downplayed the content of the memo, calling it “a total political and legal BUST.” (Politico)
  • Senators are weighing a short-term fix to protect so-called Dreamers ahead of a March 5 deadline set by Trump for ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. A spending bill that needs to be passed by March 23 in order to avoid a government shutdown is seen by senators as their next shot at passing DACA legislation. (The Hill)
  • Trump has told administration officials and his associates that he wants his longtime personal pilot, John Dunkin, to be head of the Federal Aviation Administration, according to an unnamed source, placing him on a short list with Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.) and acting FAA Administrator Dan Elwell, according to unnamed sources. A senior administration official defended Dunk’s experience to get the job but said no decision has been made. (Axios)

Chart Review

Events Calendar (All Times Local)

Rep. Gallagher participates in New America event on national security 10 a.m.
Kentucky governor participates in AEI event on reforming foster care systems 12:15 p.m.
Sens. Cornyn, Hatch, governors participate in U.S. Chamber of Commerce Invest in America Summit 8 a.m.
CBO director testifies at House Budget Committee hearing 10 a.m.
House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing on energy infrastructure 10 a.m.
Sens. Carper, Merkley participate in Electric Drive Transportation Association event 12 p.m.
Sen. Coons participates in Hudson Institute event on foreign policy 11:30 a.m.
U.S. Chamber of Commerce hosts aviation summit 7 a.m.
Reps. Fitzpatrick, Guthrie, Kuster participate in U.S. Chamber of Commerce event on opioid crisis 8:30 a.m.
Fed’s Powell testifies at Senate Banking Committee hearing 10 a.m.
Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing on infrastructure framework 10 a.m.
No events scheduled

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Congress Returns to Washington Under Pressure to Act on Guns
Kristina Peterson and Natalie Andrews, The Wall Street Journal

Lawmakers return to Washington on Monday to find a familiar contentious issue—guns—taking a priority over spending and immigration legislation that were expected to preoccupy their time for the next several weeks. The Feb. 14 school shooting in Parkland, Fla., and President Donald Trump’s subsequent calls on Congress to take action are expected to reboot an effort to tighten the national firearm-purchase background-check system.

Top Homeland Security official, who clashed with White House over immigration policy, to step down
Nick Miroff, The Washington Post

Elaine Duke, the second-highest-ranking official at the Department of Homeland Security, announced Friday that she will step down after serving less than a year in the job. A longtime Homeland Security official who ran the agency as acting secretary for more than four months last year, Duke, now deputy secretary, is a well-regarded figure at DHS and viewed as one of its most experienced managers.

At U.S. Urging, Pakistan to Be Placed on Terrorism-Financing List
Salman Masood, The New York Times

At the urging of the Trump administration, an international task force has decided to place Pakistan on a terrorism-financing watch list, a decision that has stunned and alarmed Pakistani officials and one that could deliver a major blow to the nation’s economy. The Paris-based organization, the Financial Action Task Force, which conducts much of its business in secret, concluded its meetings on Friday with no public statement on Pakistan’s status.


Exclusive: Trump privately pushing personal pilot to run FAA
Jonathan Swan, Axios

The president’s personal pilot is on the administration’s short list to head the Federal Aviation Administration. Trump has told a host of administration officials and associates that he wants John Dunkin — his longtime personal pilot, who flew him around the country on Trump Force One during the campaign — to helm the agency, which has a budget in the billions and which oversees all civil aviation in the United States.

After testy call with Trump over border wall, Mexican president shelves plan to visit White House
Philip Rucker et al., The Washington Post

Tentative plans for Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto to make his first visit to the White House to meet with President Trump were scuttled this week after a testy call between the two leaders ended in an impasse over Trump’s promised border wall, according to U.S. and Mexican officials. Peña Nieto was eyeing an official trip to Washington this month or in March, but both countries agreed to call off the plan after Trump would not agree to publicly affirm Mexico’s position that it would not fund construction of a border wall that the Mexican people widely consider offensive, said the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a confidential conversation.

Europeans look for a way to preserve nuclear deal while punishing Iran and satisfying Trump
Karen DeYoung, The Washington Post

When French President Emmanuel Macron called this month for new international sanctions and “surveillance” over Iran’s ballistic missile program, there was one person in particular he hoped was listening. France, Germany and Britain have been scrambling for months to convince President Trump that they want to join him in cracking down on bad Iranian behavior — missile tests, terrorism support and regional meddling.

Trump Favors Commerce’s Harshest Steel and Aluminum Tariffs, Sources Say
Jennifer Jacobs, Bloomberg

President Donald Trump has told confidants that he wants to impose the harshest tariffs on steel and aluminum imports recommended by the Commerce Department, according to three people familiar with the matter. Trump has said he wants to slap a global tariff of 24 percent on steel imports, the most severe of three options presented to him in a report in January.

AP Review: Trump’s deregulation drive weakens safety rules
Joan Lowy and Tom Krisher, The Associated Press

On a clear, dry June evening in 2015, cars and trucks rolled slowly in a herky-jerky backup ahead of an Interstate 75 construction zone in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Barreling toward them: an 18-ton tractor-trailer going about 80 mph. Despite multiple signs warning of slow traffic, the driver, with little or no braking, bashed into eight vehicles before coming to a stop about 1½ football fields away.


Senate pivots to stopgap ‘Dreamers’ deal
Jordain Carney and Rafael Bernal, The Hill

The Senate is weighing a short-term fix for “Dreamers” as lawmakers struggle to break a stalemate that has stalled the chamber’s debate. The hunt for a fallback option comes ahead of the March 5 deadline created by President Trump’s decision to end the immigration program and amid fresh questions about what, if anything, can clear Congress and win over the White House.

Blumenthal Law Would Take Guns From Those Judged to Be Threats
Joseph De Avila, The Wall Street Journal

Connecticut U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal called for a federal law Sunday allowing law-enforcement officials to take away people’s guns if a judge rules they are a threat to themselves or others. Connecticut passed such a law in 1999 following a shooting at the Connecticut Lottery Corp. in which a gunman killed four people.

McDaniel expected to clarify political future Monday
Craig Ford, WTVA

McDaniel has said he has been looking at a run for the United States Senate in the GOP primary against incumbent Senator Roger Wicker of Tupelo. Qualifying for that primary ends March 1 at 5 p.m.


Democratic memo: FBI was investigating Trump campaign associates weeks before receiving dossier
Kyle Cheney, Politico

The FBI team investigating the 2016 Trump campaign’s contacts with Russians had already opened inquiries into multiple people connected to the campaign when it received a controversial dossier alleging illicit ties between then-candidate Donald Trump and the Kremlin, a Democratic memo released by the House Intelligence Committee revealed Saturday. The dossier, compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele, wasn’t provided to the FBI’s counterintelligence team until mid-September 2016, according to the memo.

DCCC Unloads on Democratic Candidate in Texas
Bridget Bowman, Roll Call

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is openly rejecting a Democratic candidate in Texas, releasing research Thursday night that accused her of being a “Washington insider” just over one week before the primary. Laura Moser is running in the crowded March 6 primary in the Houston-based 7th District.

California Democrats agree they have too many candidates for Congress. What to do about them is the problem
Christine Mai-Duc, Los Angeles Times

Democratic activists in Orange County threw an impromptu party with cake, party hats and singing after Republican Rep. Darrell Issa announced he was retiring. But the exhilaration over the opportunity to capture a Republican congressional seat quickly turned to political panic.  

Anti-abortion Democrat snubbed by party for reelection
Heather Caygle, Politico

Dan Lipinski is the kind of candidate Democrats need more of for the party to win the House in November. But the national Democratic Party is refusing to endorse him.


Gov. Rick Scott directs FDLE to investigate response to shooting at Stoneman Douglas
David Fleshler, Sun-Sentinel

Gov. Rick Scott on Sunday asked the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate the response to the Parkland school shooting, as questions mounted over the Broward Sheriff’s Office’s handling of the tragedy that took 17 lives. The announcement came just hours after Broward Sheriff Scott Israel appeared on CNN and refused any blame for his agency’s missteps and touted his own “amazing leadership.”

Governors to Washington: Stop dithering on guns
Gabriel Debenedetti and Daniel Strauss, Politico

Governors are tired of waiting on Washington for action on gun policy. State leaders from both parties implored federal lawmakers this weekend to listen to their states’ examples for responsible firearms legislation after the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, increasingly exasperated with the slow pace of debate and halting progress in the nation’s capital.

California Democratic Party offers no endorsements in U.S. Senate or governor’s races
Seema Mehta and Phil Willon, Los Angeles Times

The California Democratic Party decided not to endorse in the U.S. Senate contest on Saturday, an embarrassing rebuke of veteran Sen. Dianne Feinstein. Feinstein, who has represented California in the Senate for a quarter-century, is facing an insurgent bid by a fellow Democrat, state Senate leader Kevin de León.

In Spite of Executive Order, Cuomo Takes Campaign Money From State Appointees
Shane Goldmacher et al., The New York Times

In late November, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo flew to Buffalo for a fund-raising trip, a quick two-stop jaunt that brought in more than $200,000 in donations for his re-election campaign. The events, one at an Embassy Suites hotel and the other a more intimate gathering at a private residence, were hosted by two men familiar to Mr. Cuomo — and to state government.


Gun lobby pushes back on Trump’s gun plans after Florida shooting
Pete Schroeder and Roberta Rampton, Reuters

The National Rifle Association pushed back on Sunday against modest proposals by President Donald Trump and other Republicans to change U.S. gun laws after a school shooting in Florida that killed 17 students and staff. The powerful gun lobby group does not support Trump’s proposals to raise the age limit for buying certain types of guns and to ban bump stocks that enable semi-automatic rifles to shoot hundreds of rounds a minute, a spokeswoman said on ABC’s “This Week.”

NRA battles Florida Republicans over gun crackdown
Matt Dixon, Politico

The National Rifle Association, equipped with a vaunted political email list and support from passionate single-issue voters, is gearing up to take on Florida Gov. Rick Scott and GOP leaders as they tee up a rarity in Florida lawmaking: gun control legislation. The central question for Republicans as the state’s legislative session enters its final weeks is whether the NRA, which opposes the GOP-written measures, will get rolled by a collection of lawmakers it helped get elected.

As Omnibus Looms, Lobbying Commences
Joe Williams, Roll Call

It’s Christmas again in Congress. Members in both chambers return to Capitol Hill on Monday from a ten-day recess with four weeks left to put together a massive fiscal 2018 spending bill.

Behind a Key Anti-Labor Case, a Web of Conservative Donors
Noam Scheiber and Kenneth P. Vogel, The New York Times

In the summer of 2016, government workers in Illinois received a mailing that offered them tips on how to leave their union. By paying a so-called fair-share fee instead of standard union dues, the mailing said, they would no longer be bound by union rules and could not be punished for refusing to strike.

Opinions, Editorials and Perspectives

The Rise of a Broader Youth Justice Movement
Jerusha Conner, Morning Consult 

For several years, I have studied when and how high school aged youth effect policy change. Though they may not have commanded as much attention as their college student activist counterparts, in recent years, high school students have brought about significant changes in policy and practice — at the school level certainly, but also at the local, district and state levels.

I’m Republican. I Appreciate Assault Weapons. And I Support a Ban.
Brian Mast, The New York Times 

The most important and unregrettable time of my life was the 12 years I spent in the Army. I became a bomb technician because I wanted to save lives.

Teachers Belong in Classrooms, Teaching
Mike Barnicle, The Daily Beast

My mother was a school teacher. Taught elementary school for more than three decades. Only thing she ever packed in her classroom was lunch for those kids too poor to afford one. She was a devout Catholic, a widow, an independent woman who went back to school after my father died when my brothers and I were quite young.

Democrats for Eavesdrop Abuse
The Editorial Board, The Wall Street Journal

The House Intelligence Committee on Saturday released the long-awaited Democratic response to allegations the FBI abused its surveillance powers during the 2016 election. Committee Chairman Devin Nunes owes ranking Democrat Adam Schiff a thank you for assisting his case.

I’m Glad I Got Booed at CPAC
Mona Charen, The New York Times

I’ve been a conservative my entire life. I fell hard for William F. Buckley as a teenager and my first job was as editorial assistant at Buckley’s National Review, followed by stints writing speeches for first lady Nancy Reagan and then working for the Gipper himself.

Research Reports and Polling

CNN Poll: Trump approval slides, matches lowest point of presidency
Jennifer Agiesta, CNN

President Donald Trump’s approval rating in a new CNN poll conducted by SSRS stands at 35%, down five points over the last month to match his lowest level yet. The slide follows a January bump in approval for the President, a finding that appeared connected to a bullish stock market and strong reviews for the economy.

In 2017, Americans narrowly opposed allowing teachers and school officials to carry guns
Juliana Menasce Horowitz, Pew Research Center

The recent mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High school in Parkland, Florida, has reignited a national debate about guns in America. In particular, as the conversation has focused on how to keep children safe in schools, the idea of arming some teachers has garnered attention.