gun debate

Gun debate divides Democrats and tests Obama’s second-term strategy

by Philip Rucker and Ed O’Keefe, The Washington Post  |  published on February 12, 2013

The politically treacherous debate over the nation’s gun laws has thrown President Obama’s second-term negotiating style into sharp relief.

In earlier legislative skirmishes, Obama was pragmatic above all, making a first offer and then a second and a third as he sought compromise with a bitterly divided Congress.

But in his legislative push to curb the nation’s gun violence, Obama’s willingness to make concessions has been absent, at least so far. The president set a clear marker — to enact the toughest gun restrictions in generations — and has since worked to rally the public to his side while waiting for wavering lawmakers to come along.

Obama is all but ignoring the Republican-controlled House as he waits for a bipartisan majority to emerge in the Senate, hoping to use it as leverage to force a vote from House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio).

“It’s clear that the dynamic of the second term will be to go to the Senate, try to build a bipartisan majority there for action, and then take it to the House and put John Boehner in the position where he’s the only person in town saying no,” said Steve Elmendorf, a Democratic lobbyist and former House leadership aide.

Although Obama’s State of the Union address on Tuesday will focus heavily on the economy and fiscal matters, the president is also expected to pressure Congress anew to act quickly on gun control.

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