News / USA

Washington Week: Focus on Gun Control, Obama Cabinet Picks

Michael Bowman
On Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama will attempt to rally public support for gun control measures formulated after the December mass-shooting at a Connecticut elementary school.  Also this week: further Senate consideration of Obama’s Cabinet picks for his second term. .
President Obama travels to Minneapolis, Minnesota, to promote proposals for reducing gun violence.  The city’s police chief was among law enforcement officials consulted by Vice President Joe Biden in formulating the recommendations.  
Minneapolis saw a deadly shooting spree last year, and Mayor R.T. Rybak has become a leading voice for gun control. "In a wonderful neighborhood, in a wonderful business we have had a horrible tragedy," he said. 
Strong and sustained public support for firearms legislation is seen as critical to ensure congressional action.  A Senate hearing last week illuminated battle lines between gun-control proponents like former Representative Gabrielle Giffords, a victim of gun violence and opponents, like the National Rifle Association’s Wayne LaPierre.
In addition to gun control, the Senate is also mulling President Obama’s pick for defense secretary, Chuck Hagel. 
The former Republican senator appeared to stumble at his confirmation hearing last week, at one point mischaracterizing the administration’s policy on Iran’s nuclear ambitions. “I support the president's strong position on containment," he said. 
Hagel later said he backs the U.S. policy of preventing Iran from building a nuclear weapon.  Nevertheless, Republican opposition to his nomination appeared to strengthen during and after the hearing.  
Senator James Inhofe said, “Senator Hagel’s record is deeply troubling and out of the mainstream.”
Although Democrats hold a majority in the Senate, Hagel would need the support of at least five Republicans if a procedural maneuver to force a three-fifths vote on his nomination was called by a senator.
Later this week, the Senate begins formal consideration of President Obama’s choice for CIA director, counter-terrorism adviser John Brennan.
“If confirmed as director, I will make it my mission to ensure that the CIA has the tools it needs to keep our nation safe," said Brennan. 
Meanwhile, John Kerry begins his first full week as Secretary of State.  Kerry has pledged to strengthen U.S. diplomatic security after last year’s deadly terrorist attack at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. 
Outgoing U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is expected to discuss the Benghazi attack when he testifies Thursday before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

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