Vice President Joe Biden plans to trumpet the administration’s progress on efforts to reduce gun violence during a speech today in Washington, despite the legislative defeat handed to the White House in April by the gun lobby.Three senior administration officials said Monday that Biden will focus on the 23 executive actions signed by President Obama in January in response to the elementary school massacre in Newtown, Conn. Of those, the officials said in a conference call with reporters, the vice president will point to 21 of which the administration has either completed or made significant progress on. A report being released by the administration will also detail that progress.
The two executive actions that remain uncompleted, the officials said, are a plan to improve mental health coverage, and the confirmation of a director for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. President Obama has nominated interim ATF Director B. Todd Jones to take the position on a permanent basis, and the nomination is currently being considered by the Senate.
“It’s time for Congress to act,” the progress report being released today says. “The Senate should now act swiftly to confirm him.”
The executive actions were among the most hyper-charged points of the debate over gun control in the wake of Newtown. Rep. Steve Stockman (R-TX) suggested impeaching Obama over the actions, and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) said he planned to find ways to nullify them. Since then, however, the outrage largely faded as the debate moved into other areas.
On one of those other fronts on Monday, officials on the call declined to discuss whether there had been any breakthroughs on reviving the Senate’s bipartisan compromise to extend background checks on gun sales. The legislation, which was championed by gun control advocates, died in April amid intense lobbying from the National Rifle Association and other pro-gun groups.
In his speech, Biden plans to press on the need to get Congress back in the game for stronger gun control measures beyond what the administration can accomplish on its own. “The President, the vice president, [and] other senior members of the team at the White House are engaged with members of Congress on this issue,” one of the officials said.
“What the vice president will make clear tomorrow is that these unilateral measures are in no way a replacement for concrete legislative actions, which is why we’re engaged in so many conversations with members of Congress,” an official said. “We’re engaged in trying to strengthen the political dynamics of the situation where we can actually have legislation that will tighten and strengthen background checks.”
The officials on the call also did not provide any information about which members of Congress have been having meetings with the White House on background checks or whether any are prepared to change their vote should the issue resurface. However, one of the officials said there was “an indication” that the “dynamics of that political conversation are changing” over the push for the background check bill and after its failure.
“The backlash that we saw, politically speaking, at the grassroots level was not against Democrats who supported a commonsense, comprehensive measure to strengthen background checks,” the senior administration official said. “Instead, we saw a pretty intense backlash against some Democrats and some Republicans who had voted against extending those background checks.”
View the Obama administration’s report on the executive actions below.