In This Episode
- The Senate unveiled a highly-anticipated, bipartisan gun control bill on Tuesday. The chamber voted 64-34 in a procedural vote to allow for its quick passage, which some hope will happen as soon as Saturday. Chip Brownlee, a reporter at The Trace, a nonprofit newsroom that focuses on gun violence in America, joins us to discuss key parts of the legislation.
- And in headlines: a huge earthquake in Afghanistan left over 1,000 people dead, Cleveland Browns quarterback DeShaun Watson settled with most of his accusers, and the White House plans to reduce the amount of nicotine in cigarettes sold in the U.S.
- The Trace – https://www.thetrace.org/
- CNN: “How to help victims of the Afghanistan earthquake” – https://cnn.it/3n893zU
- Donate to Crooked Media’s Pride Fund – https://crooked.com/pride/
Follow us on Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/whataday/
Gideon Resnick: It is Thursday, June 23rd. I’m Gideon Resnick.
Priyanka Aribindi: And I’m Priyanka Aribindi, and this is What A Day, where we’re looking to set up our newly single friend, Rupert Murdoch.
Gideon Resnick: That’s right. Friend is interesting–he’s more of a frenemy I guess, we don’t feel fondly–but he is rich and divorcing his wife, apparently, if you are interested.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. Shoot at DM if you want to meet a 90-year old architect of global chaos. We’ve got someone for you. On today’s show. Rescue efforts are underway in Afghanistan after a massive earthquake killed over 1,000 people. Plus, Biden has proposed suspending the federal gas tax for three months, though how much that would do to help drivers isn’t totally clear.
Gideon Resnick: But first, today, we are going to dive a little bit deeper on the gun control bill the Senate unveiled on Tuesday so you know what’s in it and what could happen in its future. So hours after the text of the bill was released, the Senate voted 64-34 in a procedural vote to allow for its quick passage, which some are hoping will happen as soon as Saturday. Here’s Democratic Senator Chris Murphy, one of the lead negotiators on the bill, talking about it on the Senate floor on Tuesday:
[clip of Sen. Chris Murphy] This bill will be too little for many. It will be too much for others. But it isn’t a box-checking exercise. This bill is not window dressing. This bill is going to save lives.
Priyanka Aribindi: And given those numbers in that vote, there is a very strong chance that this passes, which would make it the first significant gun legislation to be enacted with bipartisan support in 26 years. 14 Republican senators, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, voted to advance it, clearly indicating that there will be enough support to meet the 60 vote threshold that’s necessary to overcome the filibuster.
Gideon Resnick: While the bill falls far short of what many advocates have wanted for years and years, John Feinblatt, the president of Everytown for Gun Safety, said in a statement, quote, “This bipartisan legislation meets the most important test. It will save lives. So Priyanka, I wanted to find out more about what’s in the bill, what it will actually do, and how we got to this moment. Yesterday, I spoke to Chip Brownlee. He is a reporter at The Trace, a nonprofit newsroom that focuses on gun violence in America. He started by explaining the key parts of this legislation.
Chip Brownlee: So there are several main components of the bill. The biggest ones, I think, are $250 million for community violence prevention programs, $750 million for states to implement red flag laws, or other things like that, so it could be mental health courts or drug courts or veteran’s courts. But there are also some other provisions that have to do more directly with firearms. So one of those is to close what’s called “the boyfriend loophole.” The bill also includes enhanced background checks for people who are under 21, and a clarification of who needs to get a federal firearms license, which is actually kind of an interesting provision that could subject more guns to background checks. The big things that didn’t make it into the bill were things like an assault weapons ban or outright raising the age for people to be able to purchase an assault weapon to 21. Right now it’s 18. So I think when Democrats went into this, they kind of accepted that they weren’t going to get those things, and so they kind of negotiated from a position which was that we’re going to get what we can get from Republicans.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah. And you mentioned the boyfriend loophole, that’s something that was causing a stop in negotiations or it was causing a pause at least. What was the kind of back and forth there and what does the legislation ultimately do about this?
Chip Brownlee: So we say boyfriend loophole, really, the question is like just over dating partners in general, because right now federal law only applies to spouses and people who have children together or people who live together. So if you’re just kind of in a normal kind of dating relationship, the prohibitions on a person who’s been convicted of domestic violence from getting a gun wouldn’t apply to any dating partner. So what the bill actually does is it adds a definition to the current law to say that an intimate dating partner would also face those same restrictions. And they were going back and forth on how to define dating partner, but what I think they ended up doing was looking at states that have already kind of taken steps to close that loophole and kind of mirrored some of their language. But still that definition is a bit broad, even the way that they’ve done it now, and it will kind of be up to judges and courts to determine the exact definitions there.
Gideon Resnick: That kind of gets me to the other thought that I’ve had about this, which is what sort of tangible impact could all of these things have? Does it seem like there will be sort of immediate ramifications?
Chip Brownlee: I think so. The funding is quite a big deal and I know that those aren’t always the sexiest thing in a gun bill, but this is quite a significant amount of money for community violence prevention programs, which are things like Cure Violence or street outreach programs that operate in cities all over the country already. And there is evidence that they work. And I think having this funding in place for red flag laws, which allow courts to, you know, temporarily take firearms from people who are a threat to themselves or others, that could have a significant impact. You know, this won’t for states to adopt red flag laws, but there’s already been a trend of states doing this. And so this could kind of push that further in that direction. I think one of the big things is by clarifying the definition of who needs to get a federal firearms license, that will subject more guns to background checks. So if the ATF and federal law enforcement can start actually enforcing that we can see, you know, fewer issues with guns being sold at gun shows without background checks, because all federal firearms licensees are required to conduct background checks on all gun sales.
Gideon Resnick: And this is sort of getting me to the question of like the politics here, right, because you have Senate Republicans that are poised to vote for this and you also have Senate Democrats like Senator Chris Murphy talking about this being a very significant piece of legislation. How are we existing in a world where both of those things are sort of true at the same time?
Chip Brownlee: They’re already kind of selling them in different ways. Republicans, you know, kind of went into this saying we’re not going to give anything up. And Democrats went into the negotiation saying we’re willing to give a lot of things up in exchange for getting something. And I think that was a bit different than some of the past negotiations. And so we’ve already seen 14 Republicans vote for this. And, you know, with that, that’s enough to get over a filibuster. Uvalde and Buffalo changed things. I think Republicans also kind of realized that this was not a time to do nothing again. They just kind of met in the middle.
Gideon Resnick: And from the outside. How are people that have been pushing for reforms or control been responding to this? And then conversely, how is an organization like the NRA responding to this?
Chip Brownlee: The gun reform groups are viewing this very positively. I mean, this is the first action to reform the gun laws in the country in a significant way in 30 years and so I think a lot of those groups are viewing this as a step in the right direction. On the flip side of it, the NRA has already come out and said that they’re, you know, not backing this bill, even though it has things in there, like funding for mental health and funding for school safety that they do support. And then there are other gun groups that are more, you know, to the right than the NRA who are just outright bashing it already. And former President Trump has also said that he opposes it.
Gideon Resnick: So House Republicans have said that they oppose this Senate bill, that they’re working on their own. So how does the Senate bill compare to the House bill and what does this mean for this actually getting passed?
Chip Brownlee: The Senate bill is a lot less expensive than the version that House Democrats passed a couple of weeks ago. The House version would have raised the age to purchase an assault weapon. It also would have, going further than incentivizing states to pass red flag laws, it would have kind of created a federal version of the red flag law that federal courts could have imposed. So the Senate version is a lot more, I guess, modest than the House version. But we’ve also seen, you know, progressive members of Congress like Cori Bush and AOC come out in support of this, and Speaker Pelosi has said that they’re going to pass it quickly next week. But on the flipside of that, like you said, House Republicans and the House Republican leadership are already kind of lobbying against this bill, even though it was crafted in some ways largely by Republicans in the Senate. So I wouldn’t expect, you know, more than five or ten Republicans in the House to support this. And I don’t think that that’s going to get in the way of it passing.
Gideon Resnick: I want to close with this, you know, a lot of focus that we have on gun violence often comes in these cycles of like headline-grabbing mass shootings, but it’s obviously, you know, much more endemic and common in the U.S. than those events. So when people think about this legislation, how could it possibly impact the violence the country sort of experiences on that level every day?
Chip Brownlee: Yeah, the vast majority of gun violence is not the type of mass shootings that get a lot of media play. Most gun violence is community gun violence, interpersonal gun violence, and domestic violence with firearms, and I think that in many ways this bill would address those things more than even the mass shootings. Because every time, you know, we get into these political debates after a big mass shooting, it’s like, well, would this law have prevented the last mass shooting? And really, I don’t think we can say whether this law would have prevented the last mass shooting. It does have an enhanced background check process for people under 21, but it’s not clear that that would have caught or prevented the shooter in Uvalde from getting a gun. But we do know that this significant funding for community violence prevention and for red flag laws, and other similar programs will have an effect on the kind of day-to-day violence that we see, which is different than the mass shootings that grab attention.
Gideon Resnick: And Priyanka, that was my conversation with Chip Brownlee of The Trace.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. And one more thing we should update listeners on about Uvalde: Pete Arredondo, the Uvalde school police chief who was accused of botching the response to the mass shooting was placed on administrative leave last night. We’ll have more on that soon. Will also link to The Trace in our shownotes. But that is the latest for now. We’ll be back after some ads.
Priyanka Aribindi: Let’s wrap up with some headlines.
Priyanka Aribindi: Over 1,000 people are dead and another 1,600 are injured after a huge earthquake hit the eastern region of Afghanistan on Wednesday. This is the worst earthquake Afghanistan has seen in decades, and the city of Khost near the Pakistani border took the brunt of the damage. Thousands of homes in the area, most of which are traditionally built out of soil and stone, were flattened. And residents spent most of yesterday clawing through the rubble in order to reach those who were trapped underneath. According to Afghan journalists, authorities have sent helicopters and medical teams to the area, but Khost is so remote from the rest of the country that it could take a while for help to arrive. The disaster comes amid the country’s economic and humanitarian crisis, where millions of people are living in poverty. And officials say that the death toll may rise in the coming days as more victims are discovered amid the widespread damage. We’ll link to ways you can help those affected in our show notes.
Gideon Resnick: A rough day for the NFL’s public relations department, which is currently faced with not one, but two major sexual harassment and assault scandals. Starting with the Washington Commanders, a congressional panel said yesterday that the team’s owner, Daniel Snyder, interfered with the NFL’s investigation into claims of sexual harassment against the team’s female employees. According to a memo by the panel, Snyder conducted his own, quote, “shadow investigation” to derail the NFL’s probe, and sent private eyes to harass and intimidate witnesses in the case. Snyder also refused to attend the hearing the panel held yesterday on the issue, using a time-tested football play called a “Coward Back Sneak.–okay, great. But the panel’s chairwoman says she plans to subpoena him to provide a deposition next week. There is also an update on the Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson. He settled with 20 of the 24 women who sued him for sexual misconduct. Back in March of last year, several female massage therapists accused Watson of coercing them into sex during his appointments while he was playing for the Houston Texans. And two more women have come forward in recent weeks with similar stories. Among the four women who did not settle with Watson is Ashley Solis, the first woman to accuse him publicly. Watson’s lawyer declined to comment on the settlements, but Tony Buzbee, the attorney representing Watson’s accusers, said on Wednesday that he looks forward to arguing Solis’s case and that of the three remaining plaintiffs.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. I don’t even know what to say. What is up with the NFL just attracting the worst people, from top to bottom.
Gideon Resnick: Yep.
Priyanka Aribindi: Every part of the organization just filled with horrible human beings. So if you are like me and getting a bunch of LinkedIn notifications that the NFL is hiring, do not take the bait. From the guys that brought you the term “Putin’s price hike”, there is a new idea to make voters stop blaming their financial problems on Joe Biden. It is a three month break from the federal gas tax. President Biden called on Congress yesterday to open up this economic safety valve. Here he is talking through the plan:
[clip of President Biden] By suspending the 18 cent gas tax, federal gas tax for the next 90 days, we can bring down the price of gas and give families just a little bit of relief.
Gideon Resnick: Okay.
Priyanka Aribindi: Okay. Emphasis here is on the just a little bit. Many economists think that the gas tax holiday wouldn’t actually help consumers that much, despite costing government around $10 billion. The real winners of this plan might just be energy companies who could walk away with the savings. In any case, Biden’s plan now needs to succeed in Congress, which is unlikely. Republicans widely oppose the tax holiday, while even some Democrats have spoken out against it. When House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was asked about the idea in March, she described it as, quote, “very showbiz”–whatever that means–but it’s not necessarily landing in the pocket of the consumer. Five states have held their own gas tax holiday already this year or are about to, but state gas taxes are typically bigger, so there is a larger impact there. Anyways, whether or not this plan is good, we are glad that Biden got an opportunity to talk about cars. The man loves them, so happy for him–
Gideon Resnick: He does.
Priyanka Aribindi: –in this situation.
Gideon Resnick: It seems to be a pre-req for being president these days.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah.
Gideon Resnick: You need to be around a large car and want to honk the horn as much as you can.
Priyanka Aribindi: You have that instinct. It’s the President’s, and like every two-year old in America.
Gideon Resnick: Exactly right. Exactly. In Biden actions that would have a tangible impact, the White House plans to force tobacco companies to reduce the amount of nicotine in cigarettes sold in the United States to non-addictive levels. If successful, this move could help significantly reduce smoking-related deaths. According to administration documents released on Tuesday, the FDA plans to standardize and enforce maximum nicotine levels by May 2023, targeting some finished tobacco products as well as cigs. Also in Biden cites is the bastard child of cigarettes and flash drives, e-Cig maker JUUL could be required by the FDA to take its products off the U.S. market entirely. That’s according to a report yesterday from The Wall Street Journal. This follows the FDA’s nearly two-year long review of the company’s data, and specifically of the risks posed by JUUL’s popularity among young people. I am not young myself, but I have seen young’s have JUULs.
Priyanka Aribindi: I believe they call them youths actually, Gideon, but sure.
Gideon Resnick: I wouldn’t know because I’m not youth. These two tobacco policies fit with one of the Biden administration’s major goals: cutting cancer deaths in the United States. President Biden promised to reduce cancer deaths by 50% over 25 years, and to date, tobacco use remains the top cause of preventable deaths in the U.S.. Still, it is significant that Biden is going after big tobacco since he was close childhood friends with the Marlboro Man–that’s actually the end of the story that he was telling about him and corn pop–
Priyanka Aribindi: With corn pop. With corn pop. It all comes back to corn pop.
Gideon Resnick: Always.
Priyanka Aribindi: No, this is actually like, huge. I mean, reducing the amount of nicotine in a cigarette. That’s kind of major. Props, Joe Biden and co.
Gideon Resnick: Yes. I’m excited to see what the JUUL contingent thinks. Based on some of the tweets I’ve seen, not too thrilled.
Priyanka Aribindi: Well, actually, I mean, like, based on what I was reading, apparently JUUL is not cool with the kids anymore. I mean, maybe the olds are tweeting about it, but the kids? No, they’ve moved on. They have other–god only knows what they’re called–but they have other things. And those are the headlines. One more thing before we go: the January 6th committee will reconvene today, and this time they are focusing on Trump’s attempt to use the Justice Department to back his election disinformation. Once again, your favorite Crooked hosts will be covering the hearing with a live group thread on our YouTube channel, where we will share our real-time reactions, commentary, and tweets–of course, you guessed it. What else would we be doing? Our coverage begins today at 12 p.m. Pacific. Head to YouTube.com slash Crooked Media to check it out. You know, maybe Gideon in and I will even show up. You know, give you something exciting to look forward to.
Gideon Resnick: Emphasis on maybe.
Priyanka Aribindi: Maybe.
Gideon Resnick: That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe, leave a review, don’t inhale from your flash drive, and tell your friends to listen.
Priyanka Aribindi: And if you’re into reading, and not just gas prices that are 18 cents lower like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at Crooked.com/subscribe. I’m Priyanka Aribindi.
Gideon Resnick: I’m Gideon Resnick.
[together] And all comes back to corn pops.
Gideon Resnick: It does. That is the lure of this show and this presidency. So what can we do?
Priyanka Aribindi: It truly is.
Gideon Resnick: What a day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Bill Lancz. Jazzy Marine and Raven Yamamoto are our associate producers. Our head writer is Jon Millstein, and our executive producers are Leo Duran and me, Gideon Resnick. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.
Priyanka Aribindi: Good news, WAD squad. Crooked Coffee is officially here. Our first blend, What A Morning is available in medium and dark roasts. They are both so delicious. I highly recommend. Medium is my personal favorite, and they are also just so beautiful, like they are bags that you want to display on your kitchen counter. The logo is so frickin cute I can’t get over it, and it’s just really cool that this is finally here. It’s specialty grade, ethically sourced, and small batch roasted to perfection. Plus, we are donating a portion of the proceeds to Register Her, to help millions of women around the country vote. Go to Crooked.com/Coffee to get your Crooked coffee now. You can find out what all the hype is about. Try it for yourselves. Sip it when you’re listening to What A Day.
Gideon Resnick: Hello, WAD squad. In order to support our show, we need the help of some great advertisers, and we want to make sure those advertisers are ones you will actually want to hear about. But we need to learn a little more about you to make that possible, so go to podsurvey dot com/whataday and take a quick anonymous survey that will help us get to know you better. That way we can bring on advertisers that you won’t want to skip. Once you’ve completed the quick survey, you can enter for a chance to win a $100 Amazon gift card. Terms and conditions apply. Again, that’s podsurvey dot com slash whataday w h a t a d a y Thank you for your help.