Governors Lead Democrat Against Guns and Abortion

Some Democrats warn that the lack of a strong response will be a problem if the party hopes to muster enough voters to maintain its tight grip on Congress.

NEW YORK – Hours after a gunman killed seven people during a July 4 parade in suburban Chicago, Illinois Governor JB Pritzker tapped into the frustration of many fellow Democrats over the apparent inability of the United States to curb armed violence.

“If you are angry today, I am here to tell you: be angry. I’m furious,” Pritzker said.

But in the White House, President Joe Biden was more focused on reassurance than anger.

“I know it can be exhausting and confusing,” he said, adding “we’re going to get through it all.”

In a summer marked by Democratic anger over a series of mass shootings and the Supreme Court’s decision to strip women of the constitutional right to abortion, several governors, including Pritzker, are become the main spokespersons for the party’s indignation. Their willingness to speak — and act — in aggressive terms contrasts with Biden, who has come under increasing criticism from some Democrats for his lack of a strong enough response to what some in his party see as threats. existential.

Some Democrats warn that the lack of a strong response will be a problem if the party hopes to muster enough voters to maintain its tight grip on Congress in the midterm elections in the fall.

“The people you tell to vote aren’t going to listen until we prove we’re handling this moment with urgency,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, DN.Y., said in an interview, referring to the left. in general. “We have a lot of tools at our disposal, I think we have a lot of assets at our disposal, and we have to use them.”

Facing pressure to be more forceful, Biden took executive action on Friday to protect abortion access, but noted the limits of what he could do without congressional action and said: “For God’s sake, there’s an election in November. Vote. Vote. Vote. . Vote!”

But right now, governors may have unique tools that are more conducive to quick action than the president. Well positioned heading into the fall campaign and presiding over state houses where Democrats control, Pritzker and governors. Kathy Hochul from New York and Gavin Newsom from California have a lot of latitude.

In New York, for example, Hochul was undeterred by a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that struck down a state law and allowed most people to carry a handgun for personal protection. . She convened a special session last week in which lawmakers passed new measures limiting where those authorized to have firearms can carry them and toughening licensing rules. The regulations include a new requirement to screen candidates’ social media accounts for threats.

“They may think they can change our lives with the stroke of a pen, but we have pens too,” Hochul said defiantly of the Supreme Court’s gun ruling.

In Illinois, Pritzker said he would convene a special legislative session in the coming weeks, with the support of Democratic legislative leaders, to “stronger protect” abortion rights and address some of the challenges facing the State faces as one of the few places in the Midwest. where abortion remains legal.

Abortion rights will be on the California ballot in November, after lawmakers with Newsom’s blessing agreed last month to submit a proposal to voters that would guarantee an abortion right in the California constitution. State. The constitutional amendment is certain to stimulate participation on both sides of the debate.

Newsom was particularly vocal against repealing the right to abortion even before the Supreme Court ruled. When a draft Supreme Court opinion surfaced in May suggesting the conservative majority was poised to overturn Roe v. Wade, he delivered a scathing critique of the national party, suggesting it was suffering from collective lethargy.

“Where is the Democratic Party?” he asked at the time, not naming anyone specifically but appearing to exclude Biden from criticism. “Why don’t we stand up more firmly? More resolutely? Why don’t we call it? »

With just a tenuous grip on Congress, however, Biden cannot move the legislation forward quickly. And even criticizing Republicans could be politically dangerous if he needs their support in key votes.

“Strongly calling the other side is not a luxury he has if he wants to do anything the rest of the year on anything,” said Democratic strategist Joe Trippi. “If you’re Gavin Newsom, what votes are you going to lose in the state senate or the California assembly?”

The White House insists Biden is not backing down from a fight. In an impassioned prime-time speech last month, he lamented that gun violence has turned schools, supermarkets and other everyday places into “killing fields” and asked: “How many more carnage are we ready to accept? »

Shortly after the Supreme Court’s decision on abortion, Biden called the ruling “a realization of extreme ideology and a tragic mistake.”

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Thursday that “you will hear more about it” on issues such as abortion, underscoring the administration’s central message that winning the midterm election -mandate is the best way to go.

Speaking at the White House on Friday about the abortion decision, Biden displayed anger and disgust, at times gritting his teeth as he discussed the reports of a 10-year-old girl from Ohio. who was forced to travel out of state to terminate a pregnancy after being raped.

“Ten years old. 10 years old. Raped. Six weeks pregnant. Already traumatized, was forced to move to another state. Imagine being that little girl. Just – I’m serious – just imagine being that little girl. Ten years old! ” he said.

Yet, with no more federal options, Biden is turning to governors. He convened a virtual roundtable last Friday with Pritzker, Hochul and seven other Democratic governors to discuss steps taken in their states to protect abortion rights.

Biden reiterated that his administration will protect the rights of women to travel to other states for abortion services and ensure that abortion drugs are available as widely as possible. But he acknowledged he had no voice in the U.S. Senate for more drastic actions and outlined the stakes in the November election and the need to increase Democrat majorities.

“In the meantime, I want to hear what the governors are doing,” he said.

With their re-elections essentially secure, aggressive action by some of the governors is raising speculation about possible future presidential campaigns.

Pritzker, a billionaire businessman seeking a second term, hinted at a potential presidential bid when he spoke last month at the Democratic Party convention in New Hampshire, one of the first presidential candidate states. He said he was focused on his work as governor and his bid for re-election.

Newsom drew even more attention by airing an Independence Day TV commercial in Florida that criticized Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, a potential 2024 presidential candidate. In the ad, which features images of DeSantis and of former President Donald Trump, Newsom warns viewers that “freedom is under attack in your state.”

“I urge you all to live in Florida to join the fight. Or join us in California, where we still believe in freedom – freedom of speech, freedom to choose, freedom to hate and freedom to love,” said Newsom.

Associated Press writers Sara Burnett in Chicago and Michael R. Blood in Los Angeles contributed to this report.