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The Morning Dispatch: Senate Group Announces Bipartisan Gun-Bill Framework
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The Morning Dispatch: Senate Group Announces Bipartisan Gun-Bill Framework

Plus: Chris Stirewalt to testify before January 6 committee.

Happy Monday! For anyone wondering where Declan has gone—he’s locked in a heated boxing match with the novel coronavirus (heard of it?) but expects to claim victory and return to your inboxes shortly.

Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories

  • Former Donald Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien will testify at today’s Jan. 6 committee hearing, which will likely include more evidence that Trump knew he lost the election. Stepien will appear alongside administration and local officials who rejected Trump’s fraud claims—and our colleague Chris Stirewalt, a former Fox News political editor fired after Fox called the Arizona election for President Joe Biden.

  • ​​Year-over-year inflation hit 8.6 percent in May, according to the Consumer Price Index, a new 40-year high and a reversal of April’s fall to 8.3 percent. Airfare, housing, and food fueled the gains—along with gas, which topped an average of $5 a gallon nationwide this weekend according to automobile association AAA.

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention early Sunday dropped the requirement for international travelers to test negative for COVID-19 within 24 hours of flying to the U.S. Airlines had lobbied for the rule’s end, blaming it for depressing international ticket sales, which unlike domestic tickets have not rebounded to near pre-pandemic levels.

  • Idaho police arrested 31 members of the white nationalist group Patriot Front near a Pride event Saturday on suspicion of conspiracy to riot. Police found the suspects in a U-Haul equipped with shields, shin guards, and other gear.

  • Australian officials agreed to pay a French navy contractor €555 million—about $583 million—to settle a dispute over the submarine contract worth about $94 billion that Australia canceled last year in order to join AUKUS, a military alliance with the U.S. and the United Kingdom. 

  • Global companies have lost more than $59 billion from their Russian operations since the country invaded Ukraine, the Wall Street Journal reported, though most losses were small compared to companies’ overall revenue. McDonald’s, for example, expects an accounting charge of more than $1 billion after deciding to sell its locations in Russia, but said Russia and Ukraine together accounted for less than 3 percent of its operating income last year.

  • Monkeypox vaccine manufacturer Bavarian Nordic announced Friday the U.S. government has ordered another 500,000 doses of the vaccine for delivery this year, bringing the total U.S. inventory to nearly 2 million doses. As of Friday, the U.S. had confirmed 49 monkeypox cases total, and so far the World Health Organization does not recommend mass vaccination.

  • Nearly 100 million people are under heat advisory warnings in the U.S. amid a heat wave in the Southwest. The high temps are expected to move east this week. This weekend Phoenix, Denver, Las Vegas, and San Antonio all set or tied previous temperature records for this time of year.

Bipartisan Group of Senators Release Gun Framework

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has pushed for a stronger gun-control measure, but promised to bring the bipartisan package up for a vote when final text is completed. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images.)

After a spate of mass shootings in recent weeks, senators from both parties spent last week sounding unusually hopeful about the prospect of passing a bipartisan gun-policy bill for the first time in years. That hope inched one step closer to reality over the weekend when the bipartisan group of twenty senators said in a statement that they’d reached a “commonsense” compromise on gun-policy legislation that would, among other things, increase investments in mental health clinics and school safety, incentivize states and localities to adopt red flag laws, and incorporate juvenile criminal records into the federal background checks system. 

The legislative text has yet to be released, although the group notably includes ten Republicans—enough to clear the Senate filibuster. More details on the bill are expected early this week.

Both President Joe Biden and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer praised the announcement and encouraged the bipartisan group to unveil the bill as soon as possible.

The announcement provoked a muted response from the National Rifle Association. “The NRA is committed to real solutions to help stop violence in our communities. We encourage our elected officials to provide more resources to secure our schools, fix our severely broken mental health system and support law enforcement,” the group told Fox News Digital on Sunday. 

“As is our policy, the NRA does not take positions on ‘frameworks’. We will make our position known when the full text of the bill is available for review,” the statement continued.

Other gun rights activist groups were loudly displeased with the news. The American Firearms Association, for example, decried GOP support for what it called the “traitorous gun control plan” as “the equivalent of treason for Republican voters who supported them in recent elections and are now being betrayed.”

As talks progressed in advance of Sunday’s deal, Democrats found themselves staking their legislative ambitions in an unlikely source: Republican Sen. John Cornyn.

The Texas senator was tapped earlier this month by Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to explore a deal on gun legislation with a bipartisan group of senators co-led by Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut. Cornyn, a member of the Judiciary Committee who previously served on the Texas Supreme Court and as Senate GOP whip, was a natural pick to spearhead these negotiations, particularly given his position as the senior senator from the Lone Star State, where a gunman fatally shot 19 children and two teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde last month. He’s also got a record to show on the issue, having successfully led the legislative effort in 2017 and 2018 to codify the Fix NICS Act, a bipartisan bill that bolstered existing background checks on the federal and state level.

Democrats spent last week projecting cautious optimism to reporters about the prospect of a rare bipartisan deal on gun issues. “After so many years I’m sort of skeptical about whether we get to 60 votes,” Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia told Audrey last week. “We will have more of a chance with Sen. Cornyn leading the effort on the Republican side than virtually anybody else.”

Even then, it’s a tall order. There are few faster ways for Republicans in most parts of the country to short-circuit their legislative careers than by supporting anything that could be even mildly construed as “gun control.” Just ask GOP Rep. Chris Jacobs of New York, who announced earlier this month that he would no longer seek reelection just one week after came out in support of an assault weapons ban. (He was one of only five House Republicans who voted last week in favor of a sweeping gun-control package that would, among other measures, ban high capacity magazines and increase the minimum age to purchase a semi-automatic firearm from 18 to 21 years old. The package sailed through the House with unified Democratic support but is expected to face united opposition from Senate Republicans.) 

It should perhaps come as no surprise that four of the ten Republican senators co-sponsoring the bipartisan gun bill—Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, Roy Blunt of Missouri, Richard Burr of North Carolina, and Rob Portman of Ohio—are retiring.

January 6 Hearings Resume—With a Familiar Face

In Monday’s hearing before the January 6 committee, the headline witness will be Bill Stepien, the last campaign manager of Trump’s 2020 campaign, as the committee attempts to demonstrate that Trump continued to spread election lies despite being continually told by his own people he had lost the election fair and square. 

But tomorrow’s proceedings will also feature someone more familiar to Dispatch members: our contributing editor Chris Stirewalt, who at the time of the election was serving as political editor of Fox News and as part of their decision desk team, but who was fired following his team’s election-night call of Arizona for Joe Biden—a call that ultimately proved correct, but was lambasted by Trump and his allies as having been premature for days.

Up on the site today, Stirewalt has a piece detailing his perspective on the bipartisan failures that led to the current committee and explaining why he agreed to testify:

What should have happened was that, acting in mutual defense of the legislative branch and the constitutional order, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell should have put an impeachment and trial on the fast track. A single, short article against Trump for trying to disrupt the transfer of power, including by sending an angry mob to the Capitol, would have been very hard to vote against for Republicans who hadn’t been part of the power grab. If such an article had been passed by the House that week, I believe Trump would have been convicted and removed from office by the Senate. 

Instead, Pelosi put three cable news stalwarts and sharp-elbowed partisans in charge of drafting the articles: Reps. Jamie Raskin of Maryland, David Cicilline, of Rhode Island, and Ted Lieu, of California. What the House voted on a week after the attack was not designed to make it easy for Republicans to get to “yea.”

McConnell seemed content to let Democrats do it on their own. According to a book from two New York Times reporters, six days after the attack, McConnell told aides “If this isn’t impeachable, I don’t know what is,” but that “Democrats are going to take care of the son of a bitch for us.” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, though, made McConnell look like captain courageous. After saying in private in the aftermath of the attack that he would tell Trump to resign, McCarthy had shifted by Jan. 11 to saying he believed Trump was sorry for what he had done, to, by the end of the month, going to Mar-a-Lago to ask Trump’s blessing and cheese for photos. Having voted with the coup plotters against election certification, McCarthy probably rightly determined his lot was already cast. … 

I’m not going to write here about what I have to say. I’m still not entirely sure what I will say or what may happen, and don’t want to close any doors or create any expectations. I had a pretty good perch for the 2020 election and was part of the best decision desk in the news business on election night. I’m still so proud of the work we did—we beat the competition and stuck the landing. All I can do is tell the truth about my work and hope for the best.

But I do want to tell you why I agreed to testify before this committee, despite the straitened circumstances of its creation and the mistakes that were made along the way: because it is a duly empaneled committee of the United States Congress, and its chairman asked me to come forward and answer questions. I have no First Amendment grounds on which to refuse since I am not being asked to reveal a source or something like that. If I was in that spot, I would dig in my heels and fight until they either locked me up or let me go. But I have no such grounds. 

I spend a lot of time talking about the need for stronger institutions and how Congress must reclaim its status as the first among equal branches. How could I then resist when Congress made a request of me that falls well within its powers? I would rather not have to face the same anger I did after we called Arizona for Joe Biden in 2020. I have no interest in starring in the sequel to that one. But neither could I find an acceptable reason as a citizen to refuse, so I will go. It is not a courageous thing for me to do, only unavoidable.

As a journalist, I feel very uncomfortable even playing this small role in these events. The first rule for my vocation is to tell the truth as best as you can, and the second is to stay the hell out of the story. I will fail in the latter today, but aim for the former.

Members of Congress in both parties failed us after Jan. 6, 2021, and in nearly every case, it was because of a lack of political courage. Once, that meant being willing to hurt your own ambitions or those of your party to do what you thought was right. Now, we can’t even find a sufficient number of women and men who will pass up an opportunity to hurt the other side to do the right thing. The new standard in Washington is that any action must be both helpful to one’s own career and harmful to the hated opposition. We saw that all too clearly as Republicans repeatedly shirked their duty surrounding this bizarre episode, but just as clearly as Democrats egged them on. Keeping the republic will require real courage from our leaders, even when it means passing on the cheap shots. 

Worth Your Time

  • Rep. Don Young’s death after nearly five decades in Congress has sparked perhaps the strangest congressional race in America, the Washington Post’s Dan Zak reports from Alaska. Recent voting reforms in the state mean that Alaskans are set to cast “four votes, using two methods, over three time periods, in two races, for the same seat” — and both Sarah Palin and Santa Claus are among the four dozen options on the first of those ballots. Zak provides readers a window into the unique political culture of Alaska, a “red state with blue dots and purple streaks,” whose voters include “the camps of pipeline workers, the anti-tax Democrats and pro-union Republicans and crude-friendly independents, the Yup’ik Natives out west and the Inupiats on the North Slope, the pothead gold miners in the Interior, the swashbuckling ice cutters at sea, the military vets who fled trauma for wilderness, the belly slitters on the slime lines in the Kenai Peninsula, the overworked and underpaid schoolteachers in Anchorage and Juneau, all the sundry tradesmen and artists and Teamsters and missionaries and suburban mama bears and leave-me-aloners scuttling on and off the grid in gorgeous, dangerous, ‘KEEP OUT’ America.”

  • For New York Magazine, Sam Adler-Bell takes a crack at explaining why a prominent strain of “wokeness” irritates and alarms many Americans and undermines liberal goals, and asks his fellow leftists to try something different. “The underlying logic of any leftist movement worthy of the name is the logic of solidarity—the idea that we have obligations to each other, as well as power, by dint of our entangled fortunes,” Adler-Bell argues. “In America, by contrast, the dominant common sense is essentially anti-solidaristic: It is the notion that one must look out for himself, for his own; and that others—especially alien or unfamiliar Others—are a natural threat to one’s individual achievement. These are the ideas that feel instinctively true to many Americans, that feel realistic and sensible. And thus, ‘wokeness,’ as I have idiosyncratically defined it, is hostile to the basic logic of leftist organizing. Solidarity requires an invitation, a warm and friendly offer to collude in a risky proposition. It doesn’t work as a sanctimonious entreaty to identify with an existing set of self-evident values.”

Presented Without Comment

Toeing the Company Line

  • Jonah’s Friday G-File riffed on Fox News’s coverage—or lack thereof—of Thursday night’s opening hearing of the January 6 committee before turning to the bulk of right-wing criticism of the thing, which has mostly been eye-rolls and sneers about how the thing amounts to a propagandistic “show trial.” “My second point is simply to ask a question: ‘What if it were true?’” Jonah writes. “What if Trump did in fact intend, and conspire, to steal the election? … It would be good to have people on the record admitting, at least hypothetically, that an attempted autogolpe is a crime—political, constitutional, or simply moral—in the United States of America. Because if Americans of all ideological stripes can’t agree on that, then maybe democracy really is in peril.” 

  • In his Sunday French Press, David addresses last week’s assassination attempt against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh and the relationship between acts of criminal violence and orgies of mass hate against public figures. “One of the things that makes me concerned for the fate of our country is the reality that America’s partisans are both quite eager to assign blame for intimidation and violence to their political opponents and indignant when told that their own rhetoric contributes to our cultural decline,” he writes. “Our nation cannot withstand this level of vitriol. It will lead to more violence, and when it does, our most vicious partisans will disclaim responsibility. … But words still matter. They inspire action, and when angry partisans see people they publicly hate face danger and death, they should feel shame for the culture they helped create.”

  • On Friday’s Dispatch Podcast, Sarah chatted with David, Jonah and Steve about the January 6 Committee, the threats against Justice Brett Kavanaugh and political violence, and the latest on primary season.

Let Us Know

We don’t have all the details, but which of the elements in the gun control outline—offering mental health clinics, incentivizing red flag laws, incorporating juvenile criminal records into the federal background checks—do you think could have the biggest impact (if any)?

Andrew Egger's Headshot

Andrew Egger

Andrew Egger is a former associate editor for The Dispatch.

Esther Eaton's Headshot

Esther Eaton

Esther Eaton is a former deputy editor of The Morning Dispatch.

Audrey Fahlberg's Headshot

Audrey Fahlberg

Audrey is a former reporter for The Dispatch.

Chris Stirewalt's Headshot

Chris Stirewalt

Chris Stirewalt is a contributing editor at The Dispatch, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, the politics editor for NewsNation, co-host of the Ink Stained Wretches podcast, and author of Broken News, a book on media and politics.