President Obama’s sweeping — and contentious — gun-control package, unveiled Wednesday at the White House, stands little chance of success on Capitol Hill, where a divided Congress continues to squabble over even the basic legislative task of raising the debt ceiling.
If the recent fiscal cliff negotiations are any indication, lawmakers will have a difficult time passing almost anything on the president’s 2013 agenda — which also includes other divisive issues such as immigration reform and energy legislation. Economic issues remain a top priority for this session of Congress, and lawmakers have to deal with a trio of pressing budget-related matters: raising the government’s borrowing limit; restructuring or further delaying mandatory defense and discretionary spending cuts; and extending a resolution to continue funding the government.
Despite signing a number of gun-violence-related executive orders Wednesday, “the most important changes we can make depend on congressional action,” the president said as he stood before four young children — symbolic of the 20 students killed in Newtown, Conn., last month. Calling upon lawmakers from gun-friendly districts to answer his call to action, Obama introduced the package of steps as a moral imperative to keep children safe. (His four young observers were there because they had written letters to the president urging him to take action to stop gun violence.)
But to understand how difficult the task is, one need look no further than the president’s top congressional lieutenant: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who hails from rural Nevada and has a long-standing relationship with the gun lobby. Following the president’s announcement, House Speaker John Boehner wasted no time pushing responsibility for the proposals onto the Senate. “House committees of jurisdiction will review these recommendations,” Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said. “And if the Senate passes a bill, we will also take a look at that.”