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Congress tackles gun violence, immigration

April 08, 2013|By Lisa Mascaro
  • Senate Judiciary Committee member Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) talks about gun legislation during a hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington.
Senate Judiciary Committee member Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina)… (Susan Walsh / Associated…)

WASHINGTON -- After a two-week spring recess, Congress returns to work on Tuesday for a make-or-break legislative sprint on two White House priorities – gun violence and immigration reform – in a session that could help define President Obama’s second term.

Spurred by the elementary school shooting last December in Newtown, Conn., tightening the nation’s gun laws was expected to be the top order of business when the Senate reconvenes.

But the gun violence bill could be delayed as negotiators struggle to reach accord on a provision that would require law enforcement background checks for nearly all gun purchases. That element would be the toughest part of a bill that is not expected to include a ban on so-called assault weapons, or limits on high-capacity ammunition magazines.

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Obama is headed to Connecticut on Monday to make a full-court press for the proposed bill in the face of a threatened GOP filibuster. Efforts to tighten background checks has drawn resistance from Republicans and conservative-state Democrats who favor gun rights.

At the same time, a bipartisan gang of eight senators crafting changes to federal immigration laws are racing to finish their legislation, which has become snagged by objections of growers to the pay scales and visa limits in a temporary farm worker provision.

“We hope that we can have a bipartisan agreement among the eight of us on comprehensive immigration reform by the end of this week,” Sen. Charles Schumer (D-New York) said Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “Over the last two weeks, we've made great progress. There have been kerfuffles along the way, but each one of those, thus far, has been settled.”

But noting the dispute over temporary workers, another member of the group, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) told NBC’s “Meet the Press” that the bill would be ready “in the next couple of weeks.”

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Spring provides a window of opportunity for legislative work – a temporary lull in the nonstop campaign cycle.

If progress is not made on Obama’s top priorities now, the prospects for those initiatives will likely fade as lawmakers begin to prepare for next year’s mid-term elections.

Obama’s budget for the coming 2014 fiscal year is also being unveiled this week, but fiscal matters have taken a back seat for the moment as other top legislative items muscle for attention.

While negotiations continue behind the scenes on the gun violence and immigration bills, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada.) may opt to have the Senate quickly consider a popular water resources infrastructure bill to fill the first part of the week.

FULL COVERAGE: The fight over immigration

The House, meanwhile, will consider a bill that would stop Obama’s recess appointees at the National Labor Relations Board from doing their jobs.

Republicans, who have the majority in the House, want the board’s actions to cease until the Supreme Court rules on a challenge over whether those appointments, which were made during a congressional recess last year without the consent of the Senate, are legitimate.

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