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Long IslandColumnistsDan Janison

Deals on key measures are hard to foresee before the national elections

Inside the Capitol, lawmakers are discussing a number

Inside the Capitol, lawmakers are discussing a number of issues relating to firearms, including the possibility of expanding background checks to all gun sales.  Credit: Mark Abraham

President Donald Trump tweeted last week that Congress should hold off on any election-security legislation without first agreeing to strict mandates for voter identification at the polls.

But House Democrats have long derided GOP calls for stricter "voter ID" measures as a gimmick to suppress turnout based on a myth of widespread ballot fraud.

For their part, Democrats demand legislation they say would better shield voting machines from hackers. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has bottled up the bills that would require the devices to produce paper records and to impose new security requirements on election technology companies.

Are trade-offs possible? The closer it gets to next year's election, loyalists of both parties might prefer screaming for their causes rather than getting issues resolved. Chances dwindle by the day for enacting anything more than the narrowest of compromise deals between the White House and the Congress.

That appears true of gun restrictions too, despite the revived discussions that have followed back-to-back mass shootings in Texas and Ohio.

There seems to be bipartisan Senate support for federal "red-flag" restrictions meant to keep dangerous people from legally obtaining firearms. Some states, including New York, have adopted these on their own. 

Expanding background checks for all gun sales is another topic of Capitol talk. But at this point in the election cycle, the question is how far Trump and other Republicans will go in paring down gun-ownership rights even slightly. It also is unclear what Democrats might concede to win even watered-down firearm restrictions.

“The notion that passing a tepid version of [a red flag] bill — alone — is even close to getting the job done in addressing rampant gun violence in the U.S. is wrong and would be an ineffective cop out,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said.

“We Democrats are not going to settle for half-measures so Republicans can feel better and try to push the issue of gun violence off to the side,” he contended.

Trump to date has played little visible role in delving into the details of successful legislation. Any possible new agreements would likely need to be crafted at the Capitol and sent to the President for his final approval.

And if Trump and Congress haven't reached comprehensive deals on immigration, infrastructure and health care by now, partisan polarization makes the prospects seem all the more remote.

Months ago, Trump's tariff team negotiated changes to the nation's trade agreements with Mexico and Canada. These still require congressional ratification. Before going along, House Democrats might insist that the deal more tangibly improve the lot of organized labor. At least on that front, discussions appear to be active.

Time and opportunities are wasting. Trump has already signed a legislative agreement that raises the national debt ceiling past next year's elections and sets aside $1.3 trillion for federal spending over the next two years. Having this in hand could give him and lawmakers, collectively, less pressure to resolve any other crticial issues before 2021.


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