Nonprofit, independent journalism. Supported by readers.

Great River Energy generously supports MinnPost's D.C. Memo. Learn why.

D.C. Memo: U.S. House moves on assault weapons ban, Emmer blames Democrats for crime

Plus: Hendricks struggles against Emmer in fundraising, Emmer breaks with GOP on gay marriage and crime takes center stage at congressional hearing.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler and Ranking Member Jim Jordan shown during an oversight hearing on April 28, 2022.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler and Ranking Member Jim Jordan shown during an oversight hearing on April 28, 2022.
REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

WASHINGTON – Spurred by mass shootings and regular gun violence that show no signs of abating, Democrats in the U.S. House began an effort to outlaw assault weapons this week.

The House Judiciary Committee approved the ban Wednesday on a partisan vote, and the bill could come up for a floor vote as early as next week. However, Democratic leaders don’t have enough votes to pass it – at least not as of now.

A massive crime bill in 1994 outlawed these weapons, but only for 10 years. Since then, Congress has not been able to reinstate the ban, mainly because of a lack of support from Republicans and a gun-rights Democrats, mostly from rural states.

That divide continues.

Article continues after advertisement

House Judiciary Committee chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y.,  said thousands of lives were saved before the ban expired.

“Since then, we have seen the predictable results: mass shootings have increased exponentially and our public spaces—schools, movie theaters, supermarkets, houses of worship, parades, you name it—have all become vulnerable to attack,” Nadler said.

Meanwhile, Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, the senior Republican on the committee said a ban would make “millions of guns in the homes of law-abiding citizens” illegal.

The proposed ban would prohibit the sale, manufacture and transfer of semiautomatic assault weapons and large capacity ammunition feeding devices, but not affect existing semiautomatic assault weapons ownership.

Also this week, the special Jan. 6 committee held a Thursday night prime-time hearing that focused on former President Donald Trump’s 187 minutes of inaction as an armed mob attacked the U.S. Capitol.

Witnesses said the president was urged to take action, but Trump did nothing, even as Vice President Mike Pence was in danger, so much so that members of the vice president’s security detail  made goodbye calls to family members, according to taped testimony by a security official.

The hearing also featured a video Trump recorded on Jan. 7, the day after the insurrection, in which he read a script that said “this election is now over.” But outtakes of the video show Trump said he preferred to merely say the election had been certified by Congress.

I don’t want to say the election’s over,” Trump said. “I just want to say Congress has certified the results, without saying the election’s over, OK?”

This panel’s eighth hearing since June 9 was intended to be cap off the series. But committee member Rep. Liz Cheney, R-WY, said additional hearings would be held in September, after Congress’s August break. Also, the release of a final report has been pushed back, with an “interim” report to be released in September on the findings of the committee’s investigation.

Hendricks struggles against Emmer in fundraising 

The latest filings with the Federal Elections Committee show that there’s a huge fundraising gap in some of Minnesota’s congressional races, with incumbents handily outraising their challengers.

As of June 30, for instance, Democrat Jeanne Hendricks, who is taking on Rep. Tom Emmer, R-6th, raised about $62,000. About half of that money ($31,500) was in personal loans to her campaign.

Article continues after advertisement

Meanwhile Emmer, who heads the National Republican Congressional Committee, has raised about $3 million in this campaign cycle, so much money he’s been able to donate more than $300,000 to other Republican candidates and Republican Party organizations.

Tim Lindberg, assistant political science professor at the University of Minnesota-Morris, said the 6th District is clearly Republican, although perhaps less so after this year’s congressional redistricting to comply with population shifts determined by the 2020 census. But he said “there might also be some future consideration in Hendricks’ efforts.”

As a “well-known, well-liked incumbent,” Emmer may someday run for the U.S. Senate or find a role in a Republican presidential administration in 2024 if Democrats lose the White House, Lindberg said. That would allow Hendricks to run for an open seat.

Meanwhile, her campaign has released an ad that introduces Hendricks, a nurse anesthetist, to 6th District voters – the Democrat also jumps off a building and nails a superhero landing in the video.

Emmer breaks with GOP colleagues

Emmer broke with his Minnesota Republican colleagues this week when he was one of 47 GOP House members to vote for the Respect for Marriage Act.

Minnesota’s two other GOP members of Congress, Reps. Peter Stauber, R-8th, and Michelle Fischbach, R-7th, voted against the legislation.

The bill, which faces an uphill climb in the U.S. Senate, would codify same-sex marriage nationwide and strengthen other marriage-equality protections. Approved on a 267-167 vote – with all U.S. House Democrats supporting the bill – the legislation would ban any state from failing to recognize an out-of-state marriage based on sex, race, ethnicity or national origin, regardless of that state’s laws.

The legislation is a reaction to a concurring opinion by Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas in the decision that overturned Roe v. Wade.  In his opinion, Thomas said the high court should reconsider other landmark decisions, including those that established the right to contraception, engage in private sex acts and marry someone of the same sex.

Article continues after advertisement

Emmer also promotes key GOP talking point

Emmer was more in line with his party during a House Financial Services subcommittee hearing this week that was scheduled by Democrats to highlight the economic harm to communities of the endless spate of mass shootings in the United States.

Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown testified about the impact of the shooting at a grocery store in his city had. The hate-based shooting resulted in the death of 10 people.

“This event has the potential to harm Buffalo’s already economically disadvantaged Black community,” Brown said.

But Emmer, the top Republican on the Financial Service Investigations and Oversight subcommittee, had something else in mind. He raised an issue the GOP has been hammering Democrats with in the midterm elections – rising crime. As head of the NRCC, Emmer is involved in crafting political messaging, including the efforts to portray the GOP as the “law and order” party.

“Democrats were the party of ‘defund the police,’” Emmer said.

He also invited a St. Paul restaurant owner, Brian Ingram, who is also the chef at the Hope Breakfast Bar in St. Paul, to be a witness at the hearing. Ingram painted a grim picture of his efforts to protect his employees and customers from crime. He said he shortened the hours the restaurant is open, with a start time of 7 a.m. instead of 6 a.m. “just because we wanted it to be light out before our staff would come in.”

Ingram also said the late-night pub service at his restaurant was eliminated.

“Security cameras, gosh, alarms systems, we have spent so much on those types of things and it doesn’t deter anybody. The safety stuff we have done is no deterrence,” he said.

Article continues after advertisement

Emmer sympathized.

“Look, crime is running rampant across our country so it’s imperative that Congress focus on the serious, damaging impact that lawlessness has had on our communities. We must restore order,” he said.

Meanwhile Punchbowl reported that a group of Democratic lawmakers in “swing”” districts met this week with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democratic leaders to press them to move a package of police funding bills before the House leaves for the August recess.

One such lawmaker is Rep. Dean Phillips is being challenged in the 3rd District by Republican Tom Weiler, a Navy veteran who has embraced the GOP’s tough on crime stance.