Plouffe Predicts Passage of Gun Control, Immigration Changes

Photographer: Brendan Smialowski/Pool via Bloomberg

U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts administers the oath of office as U.S. President Barack Obama is sworn in for a second term in the Blue Room of the White House in Washington, D.C. on Sunday. Close

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Photographer: Brendan Smialowski/Pool via Bloomberg

U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts administers the oath of office as U.S. President Barack Obama is sworn in for a second term in the Blue Room of the White House in Washington, D.C. on Sunday.

President Barack Obama’s proposed immigration law changes and gun control measures should be able to pass Congress, said David Plouffe, Obama’s senior political adviser.

“Newtown has changed the debate,” Plouffe said on CNN’s “State of the Union” today, referring to the Connecticut town where 20 schoolchildren and 6 educators were killed last month. “Sadly, it took a tragedy like that, but you’re seeing a lot of people -- by the way Democrats and Republicans -- think differently about this issue since this tragedy.”

Obama was officially sworn in today, as required by the Constitution, in a small ceremony at the White House. He will take the oath a second time tomorrow in a public event on the steps of the U.S. Capitol. Chief Justice John Roberts will administer both oaths.

Vice President Joe Biden was also sworn in today for a second term by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor at his residence at the Naval Observatory in Washington. Later, Obama and Biden laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery.

Obama has staked out a second term agenda of overhauling immigration, gun control and the tax code. Plouffe took an optimistic stance, saying that the time has come for both immigration change and gun control.

Republican Reaction

U.S. Senator Roy Blunt, a Republican from Missouri, said he wants to see a detailed gun control plan from Obama.

“Let’s do things better rather than take an opportunity to go after an old agenda,” Blunt said today on “Fox News Sunday” program. “There has to be a plan that could possibly work or the president won’t get it done.”

Senator John Barrasso, a Republican from Wyoming, said the president’s plan won’t pass Congress and he doubts Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will bring it to the floor.

“He has six Democrats up for election in two years in states where the president received fewer than 42 percent of the vote,” Barrasso said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” Democrats control the Senate with 53 seats to 45 Republican seats. The two independent senators caucus with the Democrats.

“He doesn’t want his Democrats to have to choose between their own constituencies and the president’s positions,” Barrasso. He said the president is focusing too much on gun control and ignoring mental health and violence in society.

Economic Wreckage

Obama’s first term was largely consumed by repairing economic wreckage from the 2008 financial crisis and getting his health care law passed. His second term is starting with efforts to reach a compromise with Congress on raising the debt ceiling and cutting deficit spending.

A Republican plan for a short-term debt ceiling increase, giving the Treasury Department three more months of borrowing capacity, is “progress,” Plouffe said on the “Fox News Sunday” program. “We don’t think short-term is smart for the economy” because it doesn’t offer certainty, he said on Fox.

The debt limit has been periodically raised since its creation in 1917, when Congress and President Woodrow Wilson authorized the Treasury to issue long-term securities to help finance entry into World War I. Since 1960, Congress has raised or revised the limit 79 times, including 49 times under Republican presidents, according to the Treasury Department, noting the U.S. never has defaulted on its obligations.

Three Months

“Three months is no way to run the economy or railroad or anything else so that’s not ideal,” Plouffe said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” program. Still, “it’s a significant moment that the Republican party now has moved off their position that the only way they’re going to pay their bills is if they get the correct kind of concessions.”

The Senate will pass a budget this year, U.S. Senator Charles Schumer, a Democrat from New York, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” program.

“It’s going to have revenues in it and our Republican colleagues better get used to that fact,” Schumer said.

House Republicans last week said they plan to vote on a three-month extension of U.S. borrowing authority in an effort to force the Democratic-led Senate to adopt a budget.

Financing for government agencies is scheduled to lapse in March. Congress faces two other fiscal deadlines in the next 90 days, and House Republicans plan to use those debates -- rather than the struggle over the debt limit -- to try to force spending cuts.

The last time Congress fought over the ceiling, Obama signed an increase on Aug. 2, 2011, the day that the Treasury warned U.S. borrowing authority would expire.

Credit Rating

Standard & Poor’s cut the nation’s credit rating. Still, Treasury bond investors -- who most directly bear the risk of any government default -- haven’t shown alarm. Yields on 10-year U.S. Treasury notes declined to 2.56 percent on Aug. 5, 2011, the day of the S&P downgrade, and continued to fall.

Yields on 10-year Treasuries, a benchmark for everything from mortgages to corporate borrowing costs, are down from more than 5 percent in 2007, before the financial crisis of 2008.

Treasury 10-year notes rose last week for a second week for the first time since November as the absence of a resolution to the impasse the U.S. debt ceiling sustained demand for the safest securities. The 10-year note yield fell this week three basis points, or 0.03 percentage point, to 1.84 percent, according to Bloomberg Bond Trader pricing.

Plouffe said Congress has the votes to pass Obama’s agenda.

“We’re confident and that’s one reason we want to stay in communication with the American people because I think they are going to demand action here,” Plouffe said on CNN.

Gun Control

The Dec. 14 shooting in a Connecticut grade school thrust gun control to the top of Obama’s second-term agenda. This past week, he unveiled the most ambitious gun-control proposals in decades, announcing a $500 million package of legislation and executive actions aimed at curbing firearms violence.

The president called on Congress to require background checks for all gun buyers, ban high-capacity ammunition clips, and reinstate a ban on sales of assault weapons. Obama also signed 23 executive actions aimed at circumventing congressional opposition to new gun restrictions, including several designed to maximize prosecution of gun crimes and improve access to government data for background checks.

Plouffe said the president should be able to get the 60 votes in the Senate and the 219 votes in the House needed to pass a gun control bill.

Assault Weapons

“If you look at high-capacity magazines, assault weapons, universal background checks, progress we can make on mental health and school safety, all of these things enjoy enormous support of the American people, both Democrats and Republicans,” Plouffe said on ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos.”

“Putting together the legislative coalition is going to be hard, obviously, but we’re very confident. I do think things have changed since Newtown,” Plouffe said.

Obama’s call has put him in conflict with the National Rifle Association, which opposes the restrictions and has called for armed guards in every school. The gun lobby last week released an ad saying Obama’s own daughters are protected by armed guards at school and calling the president an “elitist hypocrite.”

Obama’s inaugural address tomorrow and State of the Union speech on Feb. 12 will set the tone as he pushes for action.

Plouffe said there is no reason “that immigration reform shouldn’t pass.”

“Obviously the legislative process has to work its way through but this is the moment,” Plouffe said. “The stars seem to be aligned to finally get comprehensive immigration reform.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Cheyenne Hopkins in Washington at chopkins19@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Maura Reynolds at mreynolds34@bloomberg.net

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