Senate Democrats say they are poised to overcome a Republican filibuster of the looming vote on gun control. On Tuesday, a number of Republicans said they would not block consideration of a gun-control package, prompting Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to announce a vote for Thursday. But even if the legislation is allowed to advance, its key components face opposition not just from Republicans, but Democrats in conservative states. The bill already excludes an assault weapons ban after Democrats found it had insufficient support, though it may still come up as an amendment. Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Republican Sen. Patrick Toomey of Pennsylvania are expected to announce a compromise that would water down one of the bill’s remaining provisions, expanding background checks. The Manchin-Toomey amendment would exclude more gun buyers from the bill’s proposed expansion of background checks, leaving out sales between family members and other transfers.
In the lead-up to a gun-control vote, family members of victims of the Newtown, Connecticut, massacre have fanned out across Capitol Hill to pressure lawmakers. President Obama flew back with the families to Washington after speaking in Connecticut Monday night. Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut expressed optimism their pleas for gun control will impact the vote.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal: “They are a call to action, and we’re going to be counting on them to be meeting with our colleagues, many of them undecided at this pivotal time in our country’s history. And I’m very hopeful that they will help us overcome the obstacles that have been raised. We can break the stranglehold that special interests, like the NRA, have imposed, if the majority of American people — and the majority want commonsense measures to stop gun violence — are heard and heeded by the Congress. These voices and faces from Newtown are the call to action from this unspeakable, unimaginable tragedy that we have suffered, and they are powerful and eloquent beyond any words that we can command.”
In response to the lobbying efforts of Newtown families, Republican Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma suggested they are being manipulated by President Obama. Inhofe said, “I think it’s so unfair of the administration to hurt these families, to make them think this has something to do with them when, in fact, it doesn’t.”
Ahead of the gun-control vote, Vice President Joe Biden weighed in on the threat of a Republican filibuster, calling it “mind-boggling.”
Vice President Joe Biden: “I mean, it’s almost mind-boggling. I served in the Senate for 36 years, and you got 13 senators, including the minority leader, saying, 'I will filibuster proceeding on dealing with this national tragedy.' Won’t even proceed. Now, maybe between now and the time it gets to the floor, they will — as my mother would say, they will have seen the light. Maybe that will change. What an embarrassing thing to say!”
In one of the latest cases of gun violence involving children, a six-year-old boy was killed on Tuesday after his four-year-old playmate shot him with a gun he had found in his family’s home. An uncle and a family friend of the victim, Brandon Holt, spoke briefly to reporters before he died in the hospital.
Daniel Watkins: “This is really difficult to deal with. I mean, this is, you know, something that should never happen. I mean, it’s horrible.”
Danella Magiera: “They’re in the hospital right now. They’re waiting for, like, swelling to go down in his brain.”
A suspect is in custody for a stabbing rampage on the campus of Lone Star College near Houston. At least 14 people were wounded, two of them critically. The suspect is a student at the school. Harris County officers said the victims were targeted at random.
Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia: “Some of the details in the call slip did indicate that students or faculty were actively responding to work to subdue this individual. So we’re proud of those folks, but we’re glad no one else is injured any more severely than they are.”
Harris County Deputy Thomas Gilliland: “No motive as of right now. Student were leaving from class and going to class, and it was — attack was at random, and as we follow right now, it went from building to building.”
Federal regulators have disclosed the terms of a major settlement with the nation’s top banks for the wrongful foreclosures on the homes of millions of Americans. Around $3.6 billion will be shared among some four million borrowers potentially affected by the banks’ misdeeds. About 80 percent of borrowers will receive token amounts of compensation, with payments as low as $300. According to regulators, at least 53 borrowers lost their homes even though they had not actually defaulted on their loans. More than 1,000 members of the military were also wrongfully foreclosed. Those borrowers will receive payments of $125,000. The settlement includes no admission of wrongdoing by any of the banks involved. Federal regulators shut down a review of the banks’ practices in order to reach the settlement earlier this year. Recent government figures show wrongful foreclosures were far more widespread than regulators acknowledged, occurring at a rate of nearly one in three.
North Korea continues to make threats of conflict with South Korea and the United States. On Tuesday, the North Korean regime told foreigners to flee South Korea to avoid “thermonuclear war.” The regime has made previous threats in the past even though it has no such capability. South Korea meanwhile warned they see a new North Korean missile test as “imminent.” In Washington, the commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific, Admiral Samuel Locklear, told Republican Sen. John McCain the United States is capable of intercepting any North Korean missile launch threatening the United States or its allies.
Sen. John McCain: “Do you believe that we have the ability to intercept a missile at — if the North Koreans launch a missile, as is widely reported they would do in coming days?”
Admiral Samuel Locklear: “I believe we have the credible ability to defend the homeland, to defend Hawaii, defend Guam, to defend our forward deployed forces and defend our allies.”
A powerful earthquake has killed at least 37 people and left more than 850 wounded in Iran. The earthquake struck not far from Iran’s lone nuclear power station in the city of Bushehr.
A Palestinian journalist is in recovery after being shot by Israeli troops in the face. Mohammad Waleed Al-Azza was struck with a rubber-coated bullet while filming an Israeli military raid on a refugee camp in the West Bank city of Bethlehem. The Palestine News Network reports Al-Azza was deliberately targeted after refusing Israeli orders to stop filming. An Israeli soldier reportedly pointed his gun at him and fired from close range. Al-Azza has undergone surgery and is expected to make a full recovery.
Secretary of State John Kerry has wrapped up his third visit to Israel and the Occupied Territories in as many weeks. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Kerry both claimed progress toward renewing peace talks. To that end, Kerry pledged to work with Israeli and Palestinian leaders to boost economic growth in the occupied West Bank, but failed to offer specifics. Kerry is meeting with members of the Syrian opposition in London today. Ahead of the talks, Kerry said the United States is considering increasing support for Syrian rebels.
Secretary of State John Kerry: “The answer is, yes, I will be meeting with the Syrian opposition in London, and, yes, we will be discussing various means of having an impact on President [Bashar] al-Assad’s calculations about where the battlefield is going. We are left with no choice but to try to find ways to get him [Assad] to think differently about what lies in the future. That will be part of the discussion in London and in the ensuing weeks.”
Republican Gov. Robert Bentley of Alabama has signed into law a measure forcing clinics to have a state-licensed physician present at every abortion. Such doctors would also have to obtain admitting privileges at a local hospital, a step that can be impossible for abortion providers. The law is set to take effect in July. A similar effort is threatening the closure of the lone abortion clinic in Mississippi, but legal challenges are expected in both states. The state Senate in Arkansas, meanwhile, has advanced a measure that would cut off sex education grants to Planned Parenthood for providing abortions. Planned Parenthood says the measure could affect doctors and rape crisis centers for referring women to the group’s services.
The oil giant ExxonMobil has been ordered to pay a $236 million penalty for polluting groundwater in New Hampshire. On Tuesday, a jury found ExxonMobil liable for contamination caused by the gasoline additive MTBE. The jurors stunned the court by reaching their verdict in less than 90 minutes after three months of testimony. The damages more than double the $105 million awarded to the New York City Water District for ExxonMobil’s MTBE contamination in 2009. ExxonMobil has appealed the case and says it will do the same in New Hampshire.
Arkansas residents meanwhile have filed the first class action lawsuit against ExxonMobil for the massive oil spill near the town of Mayflower. A pipeline carrying tar sands oil from Canada ruptured late last month, leaking thousands of barrels of heavy crude into a residential area. The suit seeks more than $5 million in damages for what it calls “the worst crude oil and tar sands spill in Arkansas history.”
A 79-year-old woman was arrested in Oklahoma on Tuesday for locking herself to a piece of construction equipment used in building the Keystone XL oil pipeline. Nancy Zorn attached herself to an excavator by placing a bike lock around her neck. She was detained after halting construction for several hours. The group Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance says it is escalating protests against the Keystone XL in Oklahoma following ExxonMobil’s tar sands pipeline spill in neighboring Arkansas.
Hundreds of students walked out of class in Newark, New Jersey, on Tuesday to protest a wave of cutbacks at their schools. State budget cuts in New Jersey have led to teacher layoffs, school closing and a reduction in extracurricular programs. Defying threats of punishment and chanting “Stand up, fight back,” the students marched to Rutgers Law School to protest outside a hearing on Gov. Chris Christie’s latest budget.
Former Illinois state lawmaker Robin Kelly has won the special election to replace former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. Jackson stepped down to receive treatment for bipolar disorder last year and later pleaded guilty to misusing campaign funds.
New York City has agreed to pay more than $350,000 for damage to the property of Occupy Wall Street protesters when police raided their encampment in November 2011. The late-night raid brought the Zuccotti Park encampment to an end after capturing global attention for two months. Around $50,000 will cover the destruction of thousands of books in the Occupy Wall Street library. Another $75,000 will compensate protesters for lost and damaged computers and broadcast gear.