Pa.’s Toomey, W.Va.’s Manchin want to restart background checks talks with Trump. They’ll be waiting a while | Wednesday Morning Coffee

November 20, 2019 7:15 am

U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., speaks during an event at the Dauphin County Courthouse in Harrisburg, Pa., on Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2019 (Capital-Star photo).

Good Wednesday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

Anyone else notice how President Donald Trump has left no stone unturned in his quest to pass a federal ‘Red Flag’ law, expanded background checks and all the gun control measures he said he’d adopt after last summer’s rash of mass shootings?

Yeah, us neither.

Surprising exactly no one, the Zero Attention Span president dropped any and all support for the reforms he said he’d adopt after being predictably, repeatedly, and effectively, lobbied by the National Rifle Association. And with impeachment worries boiling his brain, Trump had other fish to fry in any event.

In a joint opEd for USA TodayU.S. Sens. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., along with Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin, of West Virginia, and Christopher Murphy, of Connecticut, called on Trump to rejoin them at the negotiating table.

If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and hoping for a different result, then the op-Ed is a positively Herculean triumph of optimism over actual experience, since Trump has repeatedly played gun violence reduction advocates, repeatedly raising hopes he’ll embrace reform, only to fold like a cheap suit at the last moment.

President Donald Trump (Capital-Star file)

In their op-Ed, the three senators, who are working together on a measure to expand background checks to all gun sales, said they were on the precipice of a deal with Trump.

“Over the course of the summer and early fall, we made serious and meaningful progress in our talks, including deliberations on a specific framework presented to us by Attorney General William Barr,” they wrote. “Each of us could find details of the proposal to fix, but it was a good faith effort to address concerns on both the left and right regarding expanded background checks on commercial transactions.”

Which apparently went about as well as you might expect with Barr being looked at as a good-faith actor.

“For the time being, negotiations with the White House on background checks have come to a halt. But we think it’s important to note how far this debate moved over the summer and fall, and how close we were to a bipartisan agreement,” they wrote, adding that “We are ready at a moment’s notice to restart these deliberations, because we remain confident that with the president’s support, a measure to expand background checks to include all commercial gun sales could become law.”

It’s true that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has said he won’t send a gun bill to Trump’s desk without being certain the White House will accept it — which seems like the most basic abandonment of legislative responsibility. Agreement is nice, but as legislative Republicans have shown in Pennsylvania, it’s not absolutely necessary.

The preferable option would be to simply send a bill to Trump, blitzing him with ads on its effectiveness to save lives, and then force the ratings-obsessed president to either sign it or veto it.

That would force Senate Republicans to exhibit something they appear to have lost since 2016 — namely vertebrae — but this endless song-and-dance with the White House has gone on long enough.

Toomey and his fellow lawmakers lament in their op-Ed that “Congress’ total silence in the face of this emergency is unacceptable.”

Which, of course, is nonsense. One chamber has spoken loud and clear. The House sent the Senate a bill months ago. Vote it, and send it to Trump and force him to do something about it. That’s what an independent branch of government does.

Anything else is just noise.

Our Stuff.
Elizabeth Hardison
 leads our coverage, going deep on senior Senate GOP aide Drew Crompton’s nomination to the state Commonwealth Court.

Hardison and Stephen Caruso double-team a story about Sen. John Yudichak’s, D-Luzernesurprise announcement that he’s becoming an independent — and will caucus with Republicans.

Opponents of cap-and-trade are contemplating legislative, legal options to stop Pa.’s entrance to a regional greenhouse gas reduction initiative, Caruso also writes. Caruso also gets you smart, fast on a state House committee’s vote advancing a gift ban.

Bullies would face tougher penalties under House and Senate bills introduced Tuesday.

Some 60 federal Superfund sites in Pennsylvania are threatened by climate change, our Washington Bureau Chief Robin Bravender reports.

From our partners at the Philadelphia Tribune: Officials at embattled Cheyney University have released their full fiscal 2019-20 budget proposal, but questions over its surplus remain. And hundreds of Black men gathered in Philly on Monday to look for ways to stop the violence plaguing the state’s largest city.

On our Commentary Page this morning, opinion regular Fletcher McClellan wonders if we’re entering a golden age of woke capitalism. And Duquesne University law prof Bruce Ledewitz says impeachment isn’t a matter of law, but it is an act of judgment.

U.S. Rep Brian Fitzpatrick. (AFGE/Flickr)

Democrats fear the lack of a viable candidate in Bucks County’s 1st Congressional District (it’s a crowded field already) against Republican U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick is ‘their biggest recruiting failure in the country,’ the Inquirer reports.
The death of a Black transgender woman has been ruled an accident by the Allegheny County Coroner’s OfficePittsburgh City Paper reports.
PennLive looks at one tragic upside of the opioid epidemic: An increase in organ donations.
The Morning Call looks at the high stakes debate around certifying those who prescribe medication that helps fight opioid abuse.

Here’s your #Philadelphia Instagram of the Day:

Facing a backlash, the Philly schools rolled out a $12 million plan to combat asbestos in schools, WHYY-FM reports.
Keystone Crossroads looks at the start of tests for election auditing in Mercer, Pa.
Pittsburgh City Controller Michael Lamb has jumped into the race for Pa. Auditor General, PoliticsPA reports.
More people want green burials, but cemetery laws haven’t kept reports.
Roll Call looks at the 2020 fight over reproductive rights in key battleground states.

What Goes On.
The House and Senate both come in at 11 a.m.
Meanwhile …
9:30 a.m., Media Center: Rep. Seth Grove and others on social service spending.
10 a.m, Main Rotunda: Rally for education for homeless youth.
12:30 p.m., LG’s Porch: Rep. Martina White and others on infrastructure repairs.
2 p.m., Media Center: Reps. Dan Frankel and Morgan Cephas and Sens. Judy Schwank and Art Haywood on women’s health issues.
5 p.m., Capitol Steps: Transgender Day of Remembrance ceremony.

What Goes On (Nakedly Political Edition).
7:30 a.m.: 
Breakfast for Rep. Tom Murt
7:30 a.m.: Breakfast for Rep. Mary Jo Daley
7:30 a.m.: Breakfast for Rep. Frank Ryan
8 a.m.: Breakfast for Rep. Leanne Krueger
8 a.m.: Breakfast for Rep. Jordan Harris
8 a.m.: Breakfast for Rep. Sheryl Delozier
8 a.m.: Breakfast for Rep. Steve Samuelson
Ride the circuit, and give at the max, and you’re out  a truly ridiculous $12,850 today.

You Say It’s Your Birthday Dept.
Belated best wishes go out this morning to Angela Couloumbis, of the Inquirer, who celebrated on Tuesday. Additional best wishes to our old friend, Martha Raffaele, formerly of the Associated Press’ Harrisburg Bureau, who also celebrates today. Congratulations all around.

Heavy Rotation.
Here’s an absolute classic from Everything But the Girl, it’s the remix of ‘Missing.‘ If there is a more heart-rending couplet than ‘I miss you, like the deserts miss the rain,’ we don’t know what it is.

Wednesday’s Gratuitous Hockey Link.
The New York Islanders r
emain one of the hottest teams in hockey. They extended their point streak to 15 on Tuesday night with a 5-4 O/T win over the Pens. Unbelievable. This was a team that seemed like it was on life support a couple of seasons ago.

And now you’re up to date.

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John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.