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The U.S. Senate is set to adjourn Thursday afternoon for a 10-day recess without taking any concrete steps to address the nation's deadly epidemic of gun violence, following a pattern of inaction that has prevailed in the decade since the worst school shooting in the nation's history in Newtown, Connecticut.
"The Senate isn't even planning a vote before recess following the deadliest school shooting in a decade."
In the aftermath of the second-deadliest school shooting on record—the massacre of 19 children and two adults at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas earlier this week—there is little hope that Congress will move decisively to alter the country's lax gun laws as Republicans beholden to the National Rifle Association and Democrats committed to the legislative filibuster continue to obstruct progress.
"Enough is enough. We must abolish the filibuster and pass gun safety legislation NOW," Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) wrote on Twitter Wednesday. "No one in America needs an AR-15. How many more children, mothers, and fathers need to be murdered in cold blood before the Senate has the guts to ban assault weapons and take on the NRA?"
Democratic leaders in the upper chamber have tasked Sen. Chris Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat and outspoken advocate for gun-safety measures, with seeking bipartisan compromise, an approach that has failed for years despite the thousands of mass shootings that have occurred across the U.S. since the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School atrocity.
Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), one of the Senate's most vocal filibuster defenders, is also holding talks with Republicans on gun legislation. With the filibuster intact, Democrats will need to find at least 10 Republican votes to advance a bill.
In a video update posted to social media late Wednesday, Murphy—who represented Sandy Hook's district in the House at the time of the 2012 shooting—said he is unwilling to "accept that the Senate is going to do nothing in the face of this horrific slaughter."
Just this year, there have been 27 school shootings in the United States.
"I don't accept the status quo," said Murphy. "While I'm sober-minded about our chances of getting 60 votes in the Senate, I can tell you that today, we made progress. I spent all day talking to every single Republican and every single Democrat that was willing to enter into a discussion about how we change our gun laws."
"My hope is that over the course of the week and next week, we're going to have a group of Republicans and Democrats in the Senate talking about how we can find common ground," Murphy added, mentioning "limited but significant improvements to our background check system" and so-called "red flag laws" as potential areas of compromise.
There's not yet any indication that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) intends to cancel the chamber's Memorial Day recess in an effort to expedite progress.
In a floor speech on Wednesday, Schumer slammed the GOP's "obeisance to the NRA" and persistent refusal to support even "the most simple, sensitive, positive, and popular gun legislation." On Friday, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), former President Donald Trump, and other prominent Republicans are expected to speak at the NRA's annual gathering in Houston.
"My Republican colleagues can work with us now," the Democratic leader said. "I know this is a slim prospect. Very slim. All too slim. We've been burnt so many times before. But this is so important."
Later Wednesday, Schumer vowed that the upper chamber is ultimately "going to vote on gun legislation" whether or not Republicans cooperate.
A petition launched by MoveOn in the wake of the Uvalde massacre implores Schumer to "cancel recess, stay in D.C., hold votes, and deliver" legislative action on gun safety, a demand that came as students across the U.S. planned walkouts and other mobilizations aimed at ramping up pressure on lawmakers.
"Congress can act quickly—both houses passed new laws regarding security for Supreme Court justices after the leaked draft showing that right-wing justices are prepared to overturn Roe v. Wade," reads the petition, which has garnered more than 72,600 signatures. "Our senators and representatives took action on that measure within 24 hours."
"But the Senate isn't even planning a vote before recess following the deadliest school shooting in a decade, which came on the heels of mass murders in Buffalo, New York, and Laguna Hills, California within the past ten days," the petition continues. "Democrats in the House already passed critical gun violence prevention legislation earlier this Congress—we need Senate action to send these bills to the president."
In the wake of the harrowing massacre at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas on Tuesday, progressive stalwart Nina Turner focused her ire on the right-wing lawmakers who take money from the National Rifle Association and argued that solutions to gun violence and other injustices plaguing the U.S. will continue to prove elusive until the role of big money in politics is confronted.
"The issue is money in politics," Turner, a former Ohio state senator and co-chair of Sen. Bernie Sanders' (I-Vt.) 2020 presidential campaign, wrote on social media. "They're allowing children to die because of the gun lobby. They're allowing the planet to die because of Big Oil. They're allowing people to go without healthcare and die because of the insurance lobby."
"Inaction is bought," she continued. "Whatever issue you care about, whatever issue you fight for, the roadblocks to progress are always put up by big money. If we're going to talk about how to stop mass shootings, we have to talk about big money in politics and the role it plays."
No shortage of congressional Republicans took to Twitter on Tuesday to offer their proverbial "thoughts and prayers" after 19 children and two teachers were fatally gunned down in a classroom located in a predominantly Latino town 80 miles west of San Antonio.
But when a dozen GOP senators and one ex-senator claimed to be shocked and devastated by the latest mass murder to take place in one of the nation's schools, author Bess Kalb documented how much money they have accepted from the NRA.
Among others, Kalb's spotlight on the glaring discrepancy between expressing condolences and raking in cash from a notorious pro-gun group that has lobbied aggressively to prevent common-sense safety reforms shone on Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, former U.S. senator and recently defeated gubernatorial candidate David Perdue of Georgia, and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who is scheduled to speak at an NRA meeting in Houston later this week.
Below is a collection of Republicans' statements of concern, which Kalb juxtaposed with their NRA cash totals, in descending order:
"Did the NRA send out a message with the words 'horrifying and heartbreaking' yesterday or did its top paid politicians all coincidentally use the exact same language?" Kalb asked.
There have been more than 3,500 mass shootings in the U.S. since the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Connecticut. Over the past decade, Congress has repeatedly failed to pass legislation to meaningfully reform the nation's gun laws, thanks in large part to the opposition of GOP lawmakers bankrolled by the NRA.
Turner, for her part, argued that "not only does every politician that takes NRA money have blood on their hands, so does every politician that partakes in and upholds a system that allows these big-money interests to exist."
Republicans talk trash about Trump as endorsements flop: ‘People are willing to stick their necks out’
There have been some successes, with J.D. Vance in Ohio and Doug Mastriano in Pennsylvania, but the intra-party conflicts sparked by Trump's endorsements of unpopular loyalists has made GOP heavyweights more willing to challenge the twice-impeached former president, reported Politico.
“It shows that while people realize Donald Trump is virtually, in every way, still the leader of the Republican Party, people are willing to stick their necks out and support good candidates opposite of Trump when they see them,” said Missouri-based GOP strategist Gregg Keller.
Former president George W. Bush, former vice president Mike Pence and former New Jersey governor Chris Christie all campaigned for Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, whose Trump-endorsed opponent flopped, and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) campaigned for Rep. Mo Brooks in his Alabama Senate primary, after the former president withdrew his endorsement.
“We have to be the party of tomorrow, not the party of yesterday,” Christie said. “But more important than that, what we have to decide is: Do we want to be the party of me or the party of us? What Donald Trump has advocated is for us to be the ‘party of me,’ that everything has to be about him and about his grievances.’”
“Trump picked this fight," Christie added.
Pence has more openly challenged Trump, who reportedly liked his supporters chanting their intentions to hang his vice president, as he prepares a possible 2024 presidential run, and his advisers are trashing the former president behind the scenes.
“I think the former president has been poorly advised because he’s made a lot of endorsements in an effort to showcase his formidability,” said one Pence adviser, “and that has the counter-effect that actually shows the endorsement doesn’t carry the same weight it once did.”
Trump has thrown some races -- and state Republican parties -- into turmoil by waiting months to get involved, after candidates have staked out positions and formed alliances with other GOP candidates, donors and operatives.
“I can’t imagine that somebody’s been running for office for a year, a whole bunch of people take positions on the race, then Trump decides to endorse somebody, and that means you can’t be for them anymore?" said one national GOP strategist. "F*ck that."