President Biden said Tuesday that he was “devastated” by the killing of 10 people at a grocery store in Boulder, Colo., on Monday and called on Congress not to “wait another minute” in enacting legislation to renew bans on assault rifles and high-capacity ammunition magazines.
“This is not and should not be a partisan issue — it is an American issue,” a somber Mr. Biden said in brief remarks delivered in the State Dining Room at the White House. “We have to act.”
Mr. Biden would not comment on the details of the attack but said he had spoken to Gov. Jared Polis of Colorado, Attorney General Merrick B. Garland and the F.B.I. director, Christopher A. Wray, and would continue his consultations during a flight to Columbus, Ohio, in the afternoon.
“Jill and I are devastated, the feeling, I just can’t imagine how the families are feeling,” he said, at times struggling to find the right words.
Mr. Biden then left for a trip to promote his $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package, hoping to keep the focus on the benefits of the stimulus and promoting the 11th anniversary of the signing of the Affordable Care Act. While he is in Ohio, President Biden is also scheduled to meet with Gov. Mike DeWine, a Republican, to discuss coronavirus vaccinations and other matters related to the pandemic.
The attack Monday in Colorado, in which a gunman killed 10 people, including a police officer, came less than a week after another gunman murdered eight people in Atlanta. The back-to-back killings amounted to a return of mass casualty shootings that had seemed, for a time, to be suppressed by pandemic lockdowns.
Mr. Biden noted that he had to draft a proclamation on Monday to keep — not lower — the White House flags to half-staff, because they had already been lowered to honor the victims in Atlanta.
“Another American city has been scarred by gun violence and the resulting trauma,” he said.
Earlier, Vice President Kamala Harris, speaking at an event in Washington, praised the “heroism” of Eric Talley, an officer killed while responding to the shooting.
Mr. Biden also praised the officer’s efforts and offered his condolences to his “close, close family” of seven children.
“When he pinned on that badge yesterday morning he didn’t know what the day would bring. I want everybody to think about this,” Mr. Biden said.
Mr. Biden has had a long, and at times frustrating, history of pushing gun control proposals. He was tasked with coming up with a legislative package of gun control measures by President Barack Obama after the Sandy Hook killings of 2012 but the effort resulted in no significant legislative action, and Mr. Obama was forced to enact a handful of relatively modest reform through executive actions.
Mr. Biden had not made gun control a legislative priority during the first weeks of his presidency, but his tone on Wednesday seemed to signal a shift.
He called on the Senate to quickly pass two House bills, passed earlier this year and first introduced after the 2018 mass shooting at a Parkland, Fla., high school, that extend background checks to private sellers and extend the time limit to conduct checks on purchasers.
Mr. Biden said it was wrong “to wait another minute, let alone an hour, to take common-sense steps that will save lives in the future.”
Senators quickly splintered along partisan lines over gun control measures on Tuesday as Democrats demanded action in the wake of two mass shootings in the past week and Republicans denounced their calls, highlighting the political divide that has fueled a decades-long cycle of inaction on gun violence.
At a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee that was scheduled before shootings in Atlanta and Boulder that left at least 18 people dead, Democrats argued that the latest carnage left Congress no choice but to enact stricter policies. They lamented the grim pattern of anguish and outrage followed by partisanship and paralysis had become the norm following mass shootings.
“In addition to a moment of silence, I would like to ask for a moment of action,” said Senator Dick Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, and the chairman of the committee. “A moment of real caring. A moment when we don’t allow others to do what we need to do. Prayer leaders have their important place in this, but we are Senate leaders. What are we doing?”
Even before the recent shootings, Democrats had already begun advancing stricter gun control measures that face long odds in the 50-50 Senate. House Democrats passed two bills this month aimed at expanding and strengthening background checks for gun buyers, by applying them to all gun buyers and extending the time the F.B.I. has to vet those flagged by the national instant check system.
But the twin pieces of legislation passed in the House have been deemed too expansive by most Republicans — only eight House Republicans voted to advance the universal background check legislation. The bills would almost certainly not muster the 60 votes needed to clear a filibuster in the Senate.
Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the top Republican on the panel, said in his opening remarks that he was hopeful Democrats and Republicans could work together to make “bipartisan, common-sense” progress on gun control. But he said that the House-passed legislation did not fit that bill, since the measures passed almost entirely along party lines.
“That is not a good sign that all voices and all perspectives are being considered,” Mr. Grassley said.
Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, went further, lashing out at Senator Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut, who said that Republicans had offered “fig leaves” rather than actionable, significant solutions to gun control.
“Every time there’s a shooting, we play this ridiculous theater where this committee gets together and proposes a bunch of laws that would do nothing to stop these murders,” Mr. Cruz said. “But what they propose — not only does it not reduce crime, it makes it worse.”
The renewed focus on gun control is expected to cast attention back on Senator Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, who opposes dismantling the legislative filibuster but has long labored — fruitlessly — to pass a bipartisan gun control proposal.
Following the 2012 shooting massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., Mr. Manchin brokered a deal with Senator Pat Toomey, Republican of Pennsylvania, to close legal loopholes that allow people who purchase firearms at gun shows or on the internet to avoid background checks, but proponents were unable to pick up enough support to pass it.
Mr. Manchin told CQ Roll Call earlier this month that he opposed the House-passed universal background check bill, citing its provision requiring checks for sales between private citizens, but said he was interested in reviving the Manchin-Toomey legislation.
As president, Joseph R. Biden Jr. finds himself in a position distressingly similar to the one he confronted eight years ago as vice president: trying to figure out a way to stop mass shootings and meeting resistance from conservative gun owners and their political allies.
In 2020, gun control was given a prominent place on Mr. Biden’s campaign website, but it had been a back-burner concern for a new administration single-mindedly determined to address the pandemic and its economic damage.
That could change following the attacks in Atlanta and Boulder, and if so, Mr. Biden’s successes and failures over the past three decades on gun control are likely to inform how he confronts the crisis as president.
President Barack Obama chose not to act immediately following the massacre of 26 children and adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. in 2012, as many Democrats had hoped, by pushing for a quick vote on gun control legislation.
Instead, he delegated the task of coming up with a package of reforms to Mr. Biden, who had helped pass the landmark Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act and a 10-year assault weapons ban in the 1990s when he served in the Senate.
From his earliest days in the administration. Mr. Biden pushed Mr. Obama to do more on guns, to little avail, his advisers later said. “Even before Newtown, the vice president had wanted the administration to push harder on the issue,” Bruce Reed, Mr. Biden’s chief of staff as vice president, and still a trusted adviser, told a reporter in 2015.
The decision to tap Mr. Biden irked many of Mr. Obama’s closest advisers: They thought he needed to personally push through a series of strong measures immediately, while emotions were high, to force lawmakers to cast votes of conscience.
Five weeks after the killings, Mr. Obama and Mr. Biden announced 23 relatively modest executive actions, and called on Congress to pass three laws: universal background checks, a new assault weapons ban, and a prohibition on high-capacity gun clips.
Mr. Biden, consulting with his former colleagues in the Senate, decided the best course of action was to focus on only one element, the background checks, and persuaded progressives to settle for a limited but important initiative.
The strategy, and the bill, quickly failed.
“Eight years later, there have been plenty of thoughts and prayers, but we know that is not enough,” Mr. Biden said in December, marking the anniversary of Sandy Hook. “We will fight to end this scourge on our society and enact common sense reforms that are supported by a majority of Americans and that will save countless lives.”
Mr. Biden’s proposals, listed on his website, are strikingly similar to the reforms he proposed as vice president.
White House aides are considering a number of executive actions, including one that would impose background checks for buyers of homemade firearms that lack serial numbers, a proposal to close a loophole that allows a gun to be transferred from licensed gun dealers before a completed background check, and various plans to keep guns away from people suffering from mental illness.
The Senate is set to confirm Shalanda D. Young on Tuesday afternoon as deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget, which would make her the first confirmed leadership official at the agency after President Biden’s pick for director withdrew amid bipartisan opposition.
Neera Tanden, Mr. Biden’s nominee to lead the budget agency, withdrew early this month after senators in both parties objected to negative posts she had made on social media and criticized her work at the Center for American Progress. The position of O.M.B. director is one of only two top -level vacancies remaining in the Biden administration, leaving Ms. Young to steer the agency in the absence of a director or acting director.
Democrats on Capitol Hill have mounted a substantial campaign to elevate Ms. Young, the first Black woman to serve as staff director on the House Appropriations Committee, to the position of director. Having worked to negotiate annual government funding and more than $3 trillion in pandemic relief, Ms. Young has earned bipartisan respect in both the House and Senate for her work.
She is expected to play a key role in working with other cabinet officials to structure Mr. Biden’s first budget as president, as well as an infrastructure package.
The only other cabinet-level role yet to be filled in the Biden administration is that of the head of the Office of Science and Technology Policy. Mr. Biden has nominated Eric S. Lander, the director of the Broad Institute of M.I.T. and Harvard, to serve in that role, and also intends to appoint him to serve as presidential science adviser. It is the first time that the position will be elevated to the cabinet level.
The Federal Reserve chair, Jerome H. Powell, told lawmakers that the economy was healing from the pandemic downturn and continued to play down inflation concerns at a hearing before House lawmakers on Tuesday.
In response to a question about whether the $1.9 trillion spending package to combat the virus could cause prices to shoot higher — especially if combined with President Biden’s plan to spend as much as $3 trillion on an infrastructure bill — Mr. Powell said the Fed did not expect a lasting surge in inflation.
“We do expect that inflation will move up over the course of this year,” Mr. Powell said, adding that some of the rise would be mechanical as low readings from March and April of last year dropped out of the data, and part of it might be driven by a bounce-back in demand.
“Our best view is that the effect on inflation will be neither particularly large nor persistent,” he said. And if it does pick up in a more concerning way, “we have the tools to deal with that.”
Mr. Powell testified along with Janet L. Yellen, the Treasury secretary, before the House Financial Services committee on the economic recovery from the pandemic.
The testimony is the first time Ms. Yellen and Mr. Powell have appeared side by side in their current roles. President Donald J. Trump chose to replace Ms. Yellen with Mr. Powell at the Fed, but the two economic officials spent several years working together at the Fed and have a good rapport.
Mr. Powell told lawmakers on Tuesday that the economy was healing and that although many workers and businesses continued to suffer, the aggressive response from the central bank, Congress and the White House helped to avoid the most devastating economic scenarios.
“While the economic fallout has been real and widespread, the worst was avoided by swift and vigorous action,” Mr. Powell said at House Financial Services committee.
Ms. Yellen faced questions on executing Mr. Biden’s $1.9 trillion economic relief legislation. The Treasury Department has been racing to distribute $1,400 checks to millions of Americans, posing a test for Ms. Yellen’s team, which is not yet fully in place.
Ms. Yellen pushed hard for a robust fiscal relief package and has suggested that the next bill needs to be focused on addressing longer-term structural issues facing the economy that have led to vast income inequality.
In her opening statement, Ms. Yellen described the rescue legislation as precisely what the economy needed.
“With the passage of the rescue plan, I am confident that people will reach the other side of this pandemic with the foundations of their lives intact,” Ms. Yellen said. “And I believe they will be met there by a growing economy. In fact, I think we may see a return to full employment next year.”
Ms. Yellen also defended the Biden administration’s plans to propose an infrastructure and jobs legislative package that could cost more than $3 trillion and said she did not think higher taxes on companies would hurt consumers.
“I think a package that consists of investments in people, investments in infrastructure, will help to create good jobs in the American economy, and changes in the tax structure will help to pay for those programs,” Ms. Yellen said.
Mr. Powell and Ms. Yellen both took questions on how financial regulators should deal with the threat posed by climate change. Republicans have grown concerned that the Fed’s growing attention to climate risks in its role as a bank overseer could end up putting carbon-heavy companies at a disadvantage when it comes to loan access.
“It’s really very early days in trying to understand what all of this means,” Mr. Powell said, noting that many large banks and large industrial companies are already thinking about and beginning to disclose how climate might effect them over time. “We have a job, which is to ensure that the institutions we regulate are resilient to the risks that they’re running.”
A pair of hard-right politicians announced Senate bids in Missouri and Alabama on Monday night, igniting what are expected to be contentious primary races for open seats in two conservative states.
In Missouri, Eric Greitens, the former governor who resigned after a scandal involving allegations of sexual misconduct and blackmail, said he would run for the seat being vacated by Senator Roy Blunt, who surprised Republicans this month when he announced plans to retire after next year. And in Alabama, Representative Mo Brooks, a staunch backer of former President Donald J. Trump, joined the race to succeed Senator Richard Shelby, who has also said he will not seek re-election in 2022.
The announcements, along with a new conservative challenge to the Georgia secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, who withstood Mr. Trump’s pressure to overturn the state’s election results last year, offer the clearest signal yet that Republicans may face the kind of combative primary season some party leaders had hoped to avoid. Since Mr. Trump lost the election, Republicans have struggled to unify around a consistent message against the new administration, spending far more time fighting among themselves over loyalty to the former president and the culture war issues that animate his base.
Mr. Brooks cast himself as one of the former president’s strongest supporters as he announced his Senate bid at a Huntsville gun range, where he was introduced by Stephen Miller, a former adviser to Mr. Trump.
“I have stood by his side during two impeachment hoaxes, during the Russian collusion hoax, and in the fight for honest and accurate elections,” Mr. Brooks said in an interview with Fox News. “The president knows that. The voters of Alabama know that, and they appreciate it.”
A six-term congressman, Mr. Brooks, 66, was one of the first members of Congress to publicly declare that he would object to certifying President Biden’s election victory. He faced calls for censure from Democrats after remarking at the rally that preceded the Capitol riot that it was time to “start taking down names and kicking ass.” Mr. Brooks has said the phrase was misconstrued as advocating for the violence that followed.
Mr. Greitens, 46, is also running under the Trump banner, though it remains unclear whether the former president will endorse his bid. He faced months of allegations, criminal charges and court proceedings after explosive allegations emerged of an affair, sexual misconduct and blackmail involving his former hairstylist. He resigned as Missouri’s governor in 2018, less than two years into his term; he was never convicted of a crime.
Renounced by his biggest donors and former strategists, Mr. Greitens has been championed by some in Mr. Trump’s orbit and is a frequent guest on a podcast hosted by the former Trump chief adviser Steve Bannon.
As Lt. Gen. Karen Gibson watched the violence and horror of the Jan. 6 mob attack on the Capitol, her mind flashed back to the war zones where she had led military intelligence operations.
“I was aghast,” the retired Army general recalled on Monday, standing on a balcony on the west side of the Capitol, not far from where rioters had smashed widows and assaulted police officers. “I thought, ‘I am witnessing the kind of activities that I have seen happen in nations I deployed to.’ I never expected to see that in the United States. It was shocking.”
Now it is up to General Gibson, 56, of Bozeman, Mont., to try to ensure that such an assault never reaches the halls of Congress again.
On Monday, she was sworn in as the Senate’s new sergeant-at-arms, its top security official. She is just the second woman to hold the position in the chamber’s 232-year history. General Gibson’s leadership team is groundbreaking: It includes Kelly Fado as deputy sergeant-at-arms and Jennifer Hemingway as chief of staff — the first time all three of the Senate’s top security posts have been held by women.
Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the majority leader, called the team the “three most qualified people you could find.”
During her 33-year career, General Gibson rose to be a deputy director of national intelligence. She worked on operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, East Africa, Korea and the Pacific, and across the Middle East. As the director of intelligence for U.S. Central Command, she was involved with clandestine ground operatives and technical intelligence collection from space.
General Gibson is starting her new post at a demanding time for Capitol security. Nearly 140 police officers were injured during the January attack by Trump supporters, and five people died. In the aftermath, all three top Capitol security officials resigned under pressure.
Following the attack, General Gibson volunteered to join a security review led by Lt. Gen. Russel L. Honoré, a retired Army officer who had been appointed by Speaker Nancy Pelosi. That task force recommended hiring more than 800 Capitol Police officers, building mobile fencing around the complex and changing Capitol Police Board procedures to allow the chief of the agency to quickly summon the National Guard during an emergency.
As part of the task force, General Gibson studied the ins and outs of the use of intelligence by security personnel and found some major deficiencies. The task force’s report noted that “only a handful of people” in the Capitol Police “have significant intelligence training.”
In her new role, General Gibson is faced with striking a delicate balance between securing the Capitol and maintaining public access to a symbol of American democracy. She said she hoped to restore the “faith” and “confidence” in the office.