WASHINGTON — The White House says Thursday’s motion to proceed on gun violence legislation in the Senate is all evidence needed that President Obama’s strategy of consistently engaging the American people on gun control after Newtown has worked.
Obama has been out on a limb on guns in recent weeks, as action in Congress appeared stalled and a signature part of Obama’s second-term agenda seemed to be imploding. But two conservative senators, Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, breathed new life into the debate with their new proposal to expand background checks aimed at appeasing concerns of the gun rights community. Obama’s participation in that process is that the Toomey-Manchin process is unclear. The White House is taking its share of the credit for the movement in the Senate anyway, saying it shows the power of the bully pulpit remains strong.
“The president has no doubt whatsoever that the voices of the Newtown families and the voices of Americans across the country that were raised this week as part of an effort to urge the Senate to move forward and not block procedurally progress on this legislation had a positive effect,” he said. “This is an important milestone. but it is an early milestone. And there is no question that challenges will continue to be placed in the way of making progress on passing common sense legislation to reduce gun violence. But we are obviously very pleased with today’s vote.”
The White House tried to put pressure on Congress this week with emotional speeches by Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama. Vice President Biden took to the airwaves Thursday morning to talk guns too. Those were just the latest in a long series of speeches and public statements pushing hard for gun legislation in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting.
After gun control supporters overcame a filibuster and moved ahead with debate, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters that Obama directly engaging the American people on the politically sensitive issue of guns had resulted in an important win.
Carney said public pressure after Newtown was working — and that vindicates all the work Obama has put into guns.
“The president has said all along, and you heard him on Monday, that Congress will do the right thing if the American people speak up,” Carney said. “If they raise their voices, if they make their views known. As he said then, it’s not about him, it’s about the American people and what the right, common-sense thing is to do when it comes to taking action to reduce gun violence.”
Carney said Obama called family members of Newtown shooting victims Thursday after the Senate cloture vote and hailed the vote in a call with them as “an important step forward.” Several families have been in Washington this week lobbying the Senate to move forward on gun control legislation, and Carney said Obama offered his congratulations to them after the Senate voted.