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Amid boycotts, US scrambling to make Summit of the Americas a success

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(MEXICO CITY) -- The week-long Summit of the Americas, slated to start June 8 in Los Angeles, is a big deal for the Western Hemisphere -- bringing together leaders from North, Central, and South America and the Caribbean.

But President Joe Biden's opportunity to host the high-profile gathering is running into some major problems that threaten to undermine the meetings -- and Biden's push to reassert U.S. leadership in the region.

Several leaders are threatening to boycott the summit because the U.S. has decided to not invite the governments of Venezuela and Nicaragua. And without these leaders' participation, agenda items like a region-wide agreement on migration and efforts to combat climate change and the economic and social impacts of COVID-19 are in doubt.

"If all of the countries are not invited, I am not going to attend," Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador reiterated Friday. He's repeatedly said all of the region's countries must be invited, including those that Washington considers authoritarian and are under U.S. sanctions -- Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua.

Criticism like that has had the Biden administration scrambling to shore up attendance, including by dispatching Vice President Kamala Harris, first lady Dr. Jill Biden, and a special adviser for the summit, former Democratic senator Chris Dodd.

"Is it going to be the Summit of the Americas or the Summit of the Friends of America? Because if those countries are excluded, what continent are they from? Are they not from the Americas?" López Obrador, known by his initials as AMLO, added during a press conference Friday.

Losing the leader of Mexico, the 15th largest economy in the world and one of the region's most important players, would be a big blow. U.S. officials, including Dodd, Biden's friend and former Senate colleague, have been talking to AMLO's government to secure his attendance.

But AMLO is not alone. The leaders of Bolivia, Antigua and Barbuda, and Guatemala have announced they will not attend. And others, including in Chile and Argentina, have criticized the snubs.

Even Honduras, whose left-leaning female president -- the first in the nation's history -- has been showered with attention by the Biden administration, has threatened to not attend.

"I will attend the summit only if all of the countries in the Americas are invited without exception," President Xiomara Castro tweeted Saturday.

That line in the sand was drawn just hours after Castro spoke with Vice President Harris. Harris, who Biden tapped to oversee the administration's efforts to address migration from Central America, has sought to secure an ally in Castro -- attending her inauguration in January and becoming the first foreign leader Castro met with after taking office.

While the U.S. readout of their Friday call made no mention of the summit, that Castro voiced clear opposition so shortly after is another troubling sign for the administration.

"Whether or not a widespread boycott of the summit ultimately materializes, the stresses in U.S-regional relations will have been exposed in an unflattering light," Michael McKinley, who served as U.S. ambassador to Brazil, Colombia, and Peru, wrote in an opinion piece for the U.S. Institute of Peace.

"The uncertainties surrounding the summit," he added, "are a wake-up call for the United States."

Salvaging attendance could be one reason for those recent reversals in U.S. policy toward Cuba and Venezuela. Biden administration officials have denied that was the case, but a senior Caribbean-nation official said they made a difference in getting 13 of the 14 island nations to RSVP yes, according to Reuters. On Friday, the U.S. Treasury extended the oil company Chevron's license to keep operating in Venezuela, stopping short of allowing the resumption of oil exports, but another good will gesture to Nicolás Maduro's government.

But the U.S. made clear Thursday -- it is not inviting the governments of Venezuela or Nicaragua, per Kevin O'Reilly, the top U.S. diplomat coordinating the summit. O'Reilly said the U.S. still doesn't recognize Maduro's legitimacy, but deferred to the White House on whether the U.S. would invite opposition leader Juan Guaidó, who the U.S. recognizes as Venezuela's "interim president."

While those exclusions were confirmed, whether Dodd and others can convince AMLO to come anyway is still an open question. The Mexican populist president, who's said he may send his Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard in his place, left the door open -- praising Biden as a "good person, he doesn't have a hardened heart."

But Dodd's efforts appear to have paid off elsewhere -- after meeting Dodd on Tuesday, the far-right president of Brazil, another of the region's major powers, is attending, per Brazilian newspaper O Globo. It will be the first time Biden even speaks to Jair Bolsonaro, whose attacks on the environment and Brazil's democratic institutions -- and his close ties to Donald Trump -- have cooled relations with the White House.

In addition to Dodd, the administration deployed first lady Jill Biden on a six-day goodwill tour through the region this month. Biden, who will attend the summit with the president, visited Ecuador, Costa Rica and Panama -- and batted away concerns about a boycott in between stops promoting U.S. investment and assistance in each country.

"I'm not worried. I think that they'll come," she told reporters as she departed San Jose, Costa Rica, on May 23.

O'Reilly told the Senate Thursday that the White House has not made a decision yet about inviting Cuba -- a week and a half after the administration reversed Trump's hardline policies. The White House announced flights to cities beyond Havana will resume, people-to-people exchanges will be permitted, and remittances will no longer be capped, among other steps that moved toward, but fell short of the rapprochement under Biden's old boss, Barack Obama.

But regardless of a U.S. invite, Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel announced Wednesday that "under no circumstances" will he attend, accusing the U.S. of "intensive efforts and ... brutal pressures to demobilize the just and firm claims of the majority of the countries of the region demanding that the Summit should be inclusive."

The invitation list is also drawing criticism from Biden's own party. Fifteen House Democrats, led by House Foreign Affairs Committee chair Gregory Meeks, wrote to Biden Thursday expressing "concern" about the decision.

"We feel strongly that excluding countries could jeopardize future relations throughout the region and put some of the ambitious policy proposals your administration launched under Build Back Better World at risk," they wrote in their letter.

Others on Capitol Hill have argued in the opposite direction-- with Sen. Marco Rubio, the top Republican on the Senate's subcommittee for the Western Hemisphere, saying Thursday that the U.S. should not be "bullied" by AMLO or others and should not invite dictators.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Why gun control efforts in Congress have mostly failed for 30 years: TIMELINE

Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) -- After the latest massacre in America -- this time in an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, in which 19 children and two adults were killed -- Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., vowed his chamber would again take up legislation to address gun violence despite Republican opponents arguing the regulations are misguided.

Congress' current divide on the issue is deeply rooted, tracing back to the mid-1990s, and has been shaped by electoral politics including the Democratic rout in the 1994 midterms that saw them lose the House for the first time in 40 years.

While Democratic lawmakers have at various times urged more federal gun reforms -- mostly focused on assault-style or military-grade weapons and munitions and expanding the screening process for who can and cannot have a gun -- Republicans say the focus should be elsewhere, on increasing public security and awareness of mental health and social issues.

Still the shootings continue, with new rounds of legislation often proposed in the wake of the worst killings: in Uvalde and in a Newtown, Connecticut, elementary school a decade earlier; and at Columbine High School 13 years before that, among other examples.

The prospect of a new federal law appears at the least very uncertain, given the partisan split. But legislators on both sides of the aisle are again talking, led by Connecticut Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy. Areas of focus and possible agreement include expanding background checks on gun sales -- which has been voted down in Congress multiple times -- and so-called "red" and "yellow flag" laws that would prevent someone from possessing a firearm if they have certain histories of concerning behavior.

Here is a look back at notable pieces of federal gun legislation that either passed or were defeated in Congress. The timeline reflects in part how the politics around guns, and the coalitions of politicians focusing on it, have shifted over time -- from anxieties about crime in the '90s that drew bipartisan backing to major support for gun manufacturers in the early 2000s to outcry about reducing school killings, and beyond.

2021: The House Democratic majority passes two lightly bipartisan measures expanding background checks, despite Republicans reiterating objections on Second Amendment grounds. One bill increases the window for review on a sale from three to 10 business days; the other bill essentially requires background checks on all transactions by barring the sale or transfer of firearms by non-federally licensed entities (closing so-called private loopholes). House Democrats vote to approve the first bill along with two Republicans (and two Democrats voting no). All Democrats except for one along with eight Republicans vote yes on the second bill, which previously passed the House in 2019, also under Democratic control.

2018: Congress passes and President Donald Trump signs into law an incremental boost to the federal background check system for potential gun owners. (The legislation is included as part of a necessary government spending package approved by wide bipartisan margins.)

2017: Trump signs into law a congressional reversal of an Obama-era rule which would have added an estimated 75,000 people to the federal background check system who were receiving Social Security mental disability benefits through a representative. Republican majorities in the House and Senate are joined by a few Democrats -- four in the Senate and and six in the House -- in blocking the impending regulation, which is opposed by both civil liberties and gun rights advocates.

2017: The House Republican majority is joined by six Democrats -- with 14 Republicans opposing, arguing federal overreach -- in backing a measure expanding concealed carry permits across the country via a reciprocity law requiring states to honor permits issued elsewhere. The bill dies in the Senate.

2013-2016: Partially prompted by the Sandy Hook Elementary School and Pulse nightclub killings, Congress takes up and then votes down various measures to expand background checks for sales online and at gun shows and to block people on no-fly and terrorism watch lists from being able to buy firearms. In one representative set of votes, in 2016, Democratic and Republican senators (with Republicans in the majority) each advance two proposals that are blocked along party lines. While some of those measures garner a majority, none get the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster as a potential winning compromise is frayed by differences over tactics and approach. Still, Susan Collins, R-Maine, reiterates hope -- somewhere down the line -- citing "tremendous interest from both sides of the aisle."

2013: A bipartisan group in the Senate fails to approve their own expansion of concealed carry permits across the country, similar to what the House later takes up in 2017 and earlier tries to pass in 2011. Republicans, then in the minority, are joined by 12 Democrats -- many of whom later say they oppose the expansion as the party and its base recommits to messaging around reducing guns and shootings.

2005: Congress' Republican majority is joined by dozens of Democrats in passing the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms, signed into law by President George W. Bush. The legislation shields gun manufacturers from legal liability in almost all instances where their firearms are criminally used -- with exceptions for defects in gun design, breach of contract and negligence. (PLCAA has since become a major target of Democratic ire, singled out by President Joe Biden, though such protections are not unheard of for other industries.)

1999: Previewing failed efforts to come, Congress votes down legislation to institute background checks and waiting periods for purchases at gun shows.

1994: In what would become the last major piece of federal gun legislation enacted by Congress, the Federal Assault Weapons Ban bars the manufacture and possession of a broad swath of semiautomatic weapons. The provision is included as part of the sweeping 1994 crime bill, shepherded by then-Sen. Biden and signed into law by President Bill Clinton. Gun legislation in this era is politically intertwined with federal efforts to curb crime. While the House narrowly passes the assault ban on its own and then later, successfully, via the overall crime legislation -- in the first case, with most of the Democratic majority being joined by 38 Republicans; later, along with 46 Republicans -- the crime bill is approved overwhelmingly in the Senate, with only two Democrats and two Republicans voting against and one Democrat, North Dakota's Byron L. Dorgan, abstaining. The Senate approves with slimmer margins a reconciled version with the House in late 1994, with seven Republicans joining the Democratic majority. Clinton signs it shortly after. The assault ban includes some exemptions on the outlawed weapons along with a sunset date after 10 years, in what were seen as necessary concessions. Subsequent efforts to reauthorize the ban have failed.

1993: A year before the assault weapon ban, and amid sharp public concern about street-level crime, the House and Senate back the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act (named for President Ronald Reagan's press secretary James Brady, who was gravely wounded in Reagan's attempted assassination in 1981). Commonly known as the Brady bill, it institutes background checks for federally licensed sellers and initially imposes a five-day waiting period on sales -- a provision that is later sunset with the launch of the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. Two-thirds of House Democrats are joined by a third of House Republicans in voting yes on the legislation. Although eight Democratic senators vote no (and one abstains), 16 Senate Republicans approve its passage along with the Democratic majority. President Clinton signs it into law.

ABC News' Alexandra Hutzler and Trish Turner contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

NRA convention kicks off in Texas just days after elementary school shooting

Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

(HOUSTON) -- The National Rifle Association is forging ahead with its annual meeting in Texas days after 19 young children and two teachers were killed in a mass shooting in the state. A roster of leading Republicans, including Donald Trump, will appear -- as protesters gather outside.

NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre kicked off the leadership forum Friday by addressing the shooting, stating the NRA is with the community of Uvalde and the rest of the nation "in prayer."

"It’s not right," LaPierre said. "It should never happen. If we as a nation were capable of legislating evil out of the hearts and minds of criminals who commit these heinous acts, we would have done it a long time ago."

LaPierre quickly turned to the issue of gun rights, calling for more money for police departments and school security forces as well as ramped-up funding for the mental health system.

"It's time to restore the American precept that each individual is accountable for his actions," LaPierre said, "and that's why we the NRA will never ever stop fighting for the right of the innocent and the law-abiding to defend themselves against the evil criminal element that plagues our society."

His remarks were followed by a moment of silence.

Large crowds of protesters calling for gun control gathered outside the George R. Brown Convention Center, where much of the programming is being held. The convention center is located some 270 miles away from the killings Tuesday at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde.

Children held photos of the victims of the Uvalde shooting as they participated in a moment of silence outside the NRA gathering.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who was to appear in person, but instead gave a news conference at the same time in Uvalde, addressed NRA members in a short, taped video message, in which he continued to argue that mental illness is to blame for the tragedy, not guns.

"There are thousands of laws on the books across the country that limit the owning or using of firearms, laws that have not stopped madmen from carrying out evil acts on innocent people in peaceful communities," the governor said. "In Uvalde, the gunman committed a felony under Texas law before he even pulled the trigger. It's a felony to possess a firearm on school premises, but that did not stop him."

Abbott's lieutenant governor, Dan Patrick, canceled his appearance on Friday. Patrick said while he's a strong supporter of the Second Amendment and an NRA member, he wouldn't want his appearance to "bring any additional pain or grief to the families and all those suffering in Uvalde." Musician Lee Greenwood also dropped out "out of respect" for those in mourning."

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner acknowledged the controversy of the event on Wednesday but said, "It's a contractual arrangement. We simply cannot cancel a conference or convention because we do not agree with the subject matter."

Notably, no firearms are allowed inside the assembly hall of the convention center on Friday due to President Trump's appearance. The NRA said the ban is enforced by the Secret Service.

Trump's oldest sons, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, were slated to speak Thursday night at the related NRA Hunters' Leadership Forum Dinner and Awards Ceremony at the Rice Hotel, also in Houston.

President Trump, who has embraced gun rights lobbyists despite occasional criticism, said in a Gab social media post earlier this week that "America needs real solutions and real leadership in this moment, not politicians and partisanship. That's why I will keep my longtime commitment to speak in Texas at the NRA Convention and deliver an important address to America. In the meantime, we all continue to pray for the victims, their families and for our entire nation -- we are all in this together!"

The NRA and other gun rights organizations are under renewed scrutiny amid a string of deadly public shootings. Earlier this month, 10 people were killed in a grocery store in Buffalo, New York, in what law enforcement described as a racially motivated attack by a suspected white supremacist. Days later, a gunman opened fire at a California church, killing one person and wounding five others; authorities have said that alleged shooter was driven by the political tension between China and Taiwan.

In Uvalde this week, 17 people were injured in addition to the 21 who were fatally shot, authorities said. A motive in that attack is not yet clear.

"When in God's name are we going to stand up to the gun lobby?" President Joe Biden said after the latest tragedy. Democrats have limited options to pursue gun regulations given they don't have the votes needed to squash a Republican-led filibuster in the Senate. The GOP has consistently said they won't back sweeping changes to the law, citing their views on the Second Amendment, but some Republican lawmakers support more incremental measures such as expanding background checks.

How influential is the NRA today?

The NRA has been mired in internal strife in recent years. In 2019, it parted ways with its longtime marketing partner, Ackerman McQueen, and lobbyist Chris Cox.

Then last year, the group filed for bankruptcy and tried to reorganize in Texas after New York Attorney General Letitia James raised allegations of financial misconduct. The NRA said then that James had launched an "unconstitutional, premeditated attack" and that it was "committed to good governance."

A federal judge later dismissed the bankruptcy case, leaving the group to face James' lawsuit. She is seeking to recoup money that was allegedly misspent as well as ban NRA President Wayne LaPierre and other executives from serving in the leadership of any not-for-profit organization conducting business in the state.

Amid its scandals, the NRA spent $25 million less in the 2020 election cycle than it did in 2016, according to OpenSecrets, a nonprofit tracking data on campaign finance and lobbying. The gun group spent more than $54 million across federal races during Trump's first campaign, in 2016, compared to $29 million four years later.

In the 2022 election cycle so far, the NRA has spent less than $10,000 on independent expenditures, OpenSecrets Executive Director Sheila Krumholz told ABC News.

But Adam Winkler, a University of California, Los Angeles, law professor who specializes in gun policy, told ABC News the NRA is still a powerful political force after decades of shaping public attitudes on firearms.

"The NRA has been immensely successful at persuading Americans that if you're feeling in danger, you should have a gun," Winkler said.

Gun sales hit a record high of 21 million in 2020, driven in part by first-time purchases. In 2021, sales hit their second highest number at 19 million.

The NRA has also been aided by a large constituency of very strong pro-gun voters who are "fighting for the same vision of gun rights," Winkler said. Other organizations, such as Gun Owners of America, are stepping in to fill any gaps.

OpenSecrets reported last week that gun rights groups spent a record $15.8 million on lobbying in 2021 -- more than five times the amount opposing gun control groups spent. The NRA alone spent $4.4 million on lobbying, up from its $2.2 million the year before.

"The gun rights forces in America are so powerful that another school shooting with an obscene number of deaths will likely not lead to significant new federal gun laws," Winkler said.

ABC News' Monica Escobedo contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

As Gov. Abbott places shooting blame on mental health, what has Texas done to address it?

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(UVALDE, Texas) -- During a press conference this week, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott blamed the mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde on mental health issues.

Abbott explained that law enforcement believes what's behind these types of attacks is a growing prevalence of people with mental health issues and the need for more mental health support, not lax gun laws.

"We as a state, we as a society need to do a better job with mental health," the Republican governor said Wednesday. "Anybody who shoots somebody else has a mental health challenge. Period. We as a government need to find a way to target that mental health challenge and to do something about it."

However, advocates said the state has missed plenty of opportunities to address mental health.

The governor has diverted money away from agencies in Texas that oversee mental health programs and recent reports have found Texas is the worst state in the nation when it comes to providing access to mental health care, they say.

"Based on what we know about [the shooter], we cannot come to a formal conclusion that he had a mental illness," Greg Hansch, executive director of the Texas chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, told ABC News.

Abbott admitted during the conference that the 18-year-old suspected gunman in the Uvalde shooting, Salvador Ramos, did not have a diagnosed mental illness or a known criminal background, but rejected the idea that stricter gun laws would have prevented the shooting.

Debra Plotnick, executive vice president for state and federal advocacy at the nonprofit Mental Health America (MHA), said officials and the public often blame mental health when there is violence in a community.

"When we have a situation like this where people end up dead, it's very easy to point fingers at mental health, in particular," she said. "It's a historic scapegoat and it's still the case. But hate is not a mental illness … Having a mental health condition does not make someone violent."

In fact, some critics said the state has not supported efforts to expand mental health care.

Texas is 'worst in nation' in mental health care access: Report

In April, Abbott announced he would be moving nearly $500 million from state agencies to fund Operation Lone Star, a Texas-Mexico border security initiative jointly being conducted by the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Texas Military Department.

Of that amount, $210.7 million was from Texas Health & Human Services, which oversees public mental health programs.

In a statement to ABC News, Abbott's press secretary, Renae Eze, denied that the governor cut any funding from mental health services.

"This is a completely inaccurate, unsubstantiated narrative being spun by those trying to politicize a tragedy," she wrote. "Governor Abbott did not, in no uncertain terms, cut funding from mental health services being provided for Texans. Governor Abbott has always worked diligently to fully fund and expand mental health programs and services for Texans."

Eze added the Health & Human Services Commission requested to transfer funs because otherwise, they would lapse at the end of the fiscal year.

"HHSC confirmed in the same letter that the agency and its programs, including mental health programs and services, would not be negatively impacted by the transfer," she wrote.

The MHA's most recent State of Mental Health in America report found that Texas ranked last in the nation when it comes to access to mental care.

The report said nine measures made up the ranking including adults and youth with mental illnesses who couldn't receive care, are uninsured or didn't have insurance to cover care as well as the mental workforce availability.

"We have the highest uninsured rate in the nation and the most people uninsured." Hansch said. "That certainly doesn't help individuals with mental health conditions access care."

The report adds to a growing body of evidence that Texans are not receiving mental health care. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, nearly 70% of adults in Texas with mild mental illness did not receive mental health care leading up to the pandemic, as well as 57.4% of those with moderate mental illness and 44.7% of those with severe mental illness.

Texas Democratic gubernatorial candidate Beto O'Rourke confronted Abbott briefly during the press conference Wednesday over his comments before being escorted from the auditorium.

Outside, the former U.S. representative held an impromptu press conference during which he criticized Abbott and referenced the MHA report.

"He said mental health's what's broken here?" O'Rourke said. "We're 50th in the nation in mental health care access. 50th. There are only 50 states in the nation. We are dead last."

He continued, "He's refused to expand Medicaid, which would bring $10 billion a year including mental health care access for people who need it … For the governor to say this is a mental healthcare issue and do nothing to improve mental health care access, we're 50th in the nation. This shows that he is in large part to blame for what we see."

Following the confrontation, Abbott avoided responding to O'Rourke's claims in detail and called for unity in light of the tragedy. "We need to not focus on ourselves and our agendas, we need to focus on the healing and hope that we are providing to those who suffered unconscionable damage to their lives," he said.

'Addressing mental health isn't going to end mass shootings'

This is not to say Texas hasn't done anything to address mental health.

Following a shooting at Santa Fe High School in 2018 that killed 10 people, Abbott signed a series of bills that, among other things, sought to improve mental health access.

One bill created the Texas Child Mental Health Care Consortium to train primary care providers in mental health practices as well as provide counseling and psychiatric services to children. Another bill increased mental health training for teachers and other school officials.

Texas HHS also offers Mental First Aid training, during which participants are taught to recognize the signs and symptoms of mental health conditions.

Additionally, HHSC issues a quarterly report on waiting lists for mental health services and revealed plans last year to add 350 new inpatient psychiatric beds at the state hospitals within the next four years.

"Those are good steps and important," Dr. Octavio Martinez, director of the University of Texas' Hogg Foundation for Mental Health, told ABC News. "But we've been growing very significantly, we've been outstripping these resources because of the tremendous population growth needed in the public mental health system."

Community advocates also want to see more school-based mental health centers, more school counselors and investments in mental health crisis services, which can help reach people who are in need or experiencing a mental health episode.

Even if Texas does divert more resources to mental health programs, experts said that won't necessarily drive mass shootings down.

"Doing a better job addressing mental health isn't going to end or even substantially reduce mass shootings," Hansch said. "We should address mental health because doing so vastly increases the odds of recovery."

He added, "It saves significant downstream costs for taxpayers, it's a basic human right, and it saves lives that might otherwise be lost to suicide or co-morbid conditions."

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Gun control advocacy groups rally at Capitol, urge senators to pass reform

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(WASHINGTON) -- In the wake of mass shootings that have rocked the nation, the gun safety groups Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action came to the U.S. Capitol on Thursday to pressure senators to pass stalled gun-related legislation.

Moms Demand Action founder Shannon Watts had a message for members of Congress: Do your job.

In an interview with ABC News, Watts said "We're all only as safe as the closest state with the weakest gun laws because half of the country's states don't have background checks on gun sales."

The House has done its job in passing gun reform, Shannon said. "The Senate just had to take up those pieces of legislation and pass them," she said. "And I don't know how you don't act after all of the shooting tragedies we've had lately."

Erica Lafferty said everything about the Texas elementary school mass shooting reminds her of the day she lost her mother, who she says died protecting her students as principal of Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012 during the deadliest school shooting in U.S. history.

"I wanted to step away and not deal with it publicly, so I did. For five minutes. Until I heard my mother's voice in my head saying that I cannot sit this one out," Lafferty said.

"The time to act is now. The time to act was ten damn years ago when my mom was gunned down in the hall of an elementary school," she said.

The rally was joined by Democratic Sens. Chris Murphy of Connecticut, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Ed Markey of Massachusetts, Alex Padilla of California, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, and Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester of Delaware as Congress works to pass gun reform legislation.

Though polls show a majority of Americans have signaled support for reforms such as universal background checks and red flag laws, Republican lawmakers have historically blocked those proposals from becoming law. Given the 50-50 split in the Senate, Democrats face an uphill battle, needing all members of their delegation plus 10 Republican senators to support the legislation.

Representatives have already passed gun reform legislation in the House aimed at expanding background checks on all gun sales; however, those proposals have been stalled in the Senate since 2021.

Now, a bipartisan group of senators is beginning a new round of negotiations, with Murphy serving as the lead negotiator on the Democratic side, after renewed calls to curb access to guns in the wake of the Uvalde elementary school shooting and New York's mass shooting in a Buffalo supermarket.

"I want to be clear -- this is not an invite to negotiate indefinitely. Make no mistake about it. if these negotiations do not bear fruit in a short period of time, the Senate will vote on gun legislation," Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said on the Senate floor Thursday.

Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Rick Scott of Florida told ABC News Congressional Correspondent Rachel Scott part of the discussion is focused on "red flag" laws that would allow a special protection order to be enacted on individuals deemed to be a danger to themselves or others, permitting law enforcement to remove weapons from their possession.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland tweeted Wednesday the House will move on a bill proposed by Rep. Lucy McBath, D-Ga., to create a federal red flag law when its lawmakers return from recess in the first week of June.

The negotiations come as the Senate was set to leave Thursday afternoon for a 10-day recess. Despite the break, lawmakers are hopeful negotiations will continue and a bipartisan agreement could be reached.

"Frankly, sometimes it's easier to work those issues outside of Washington rather than when we're here," Murphy told reporters outside the Capitol.

A much larger protest is expected in Washington when the group March for Our Lives holds a demonstration demanding action on June 11.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Blinken describes delicate balance between isolating and enabling China

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(WASHINGTON) -- In the eyes of the Biden administration, China is a daunting rival and an ever-present risk to global security. But it's also a necessary partner for tackling some of the world's most pressing issues.

During an address laying out the president's policy towards China, Secretary of State Antony Blinken described a delicate balance between isolating and enabling the country, calling it the "most serious, long-term challenge" to the global balance.

"China is the only country with both the intent to reshape the international order and increasingly, the economic diplomatic military and technological power to do it," he said. "Beijing's vision would move us away from the universal values that have sustained so much of the world's progress over the past 75 years."

Delivered at George Washington University, his speech acknowledges that China was also a vital collaborator in the fight against climate change, pandemics and economic turmoil.

Blinken boiled the quagmire down into a single phrase.

"Put simply, the United States and China have to deal with each other for the foreseeable future," he said. "That's why this is one of the most complex and consequential relationships of any that we have in the world today."

The secretary said that while the administration was already employing strategies to curb China's influence, it would not try to limit its growth or create new Cold War. But while Blinken maintained that peace was its core goal, he vowed the U.S. would not compromise it own goals.

"Competition need not lead to conflict. We do not seek it. We will work to avoid it. But we will defend our interests against any threat," he said.

The cost of China's rise

Blinken acknowledged that China had undergone meteoric growth in the past half-century, but said its own people and other countries caught in its crosshairs had paid the price.

"Under President Xi, the ruling Chinese Communist Party has become more repressive at home and more aggressive abroad," he said, citing mass surveillance, power grabs in the South China Sea, widespread human rights violations, the subversion of trade rules and more.

Blinken also noted the country's repression of freedom in Hong Kong, its brutal treatment of religious and ethnic minorities in Tibet and the Xinjiang region, and its indignation over any international criticism over draconian measures employed against its citizens.

"Beijing insists that these are somehow internal matters, that others have no right to raise. That is wrong," Blinken said.

The secretary also reaffirmed the One China policy, which was called into question earlier this week when President Biden he would defend Taiwan militarily before walking back his statements.

Blinken said the U.S. still acknowledges only one Chinese government, but said its posture towards Taiwan had intensified.

"What has changed is Beijing's growing coercion by trying to cut off Taiwan's relations with countries around the world and blocking it from participating in international organizations," he said, adding that China regularly put on shows of force by flying military aircraft near the island. "These words and actions are deeply destabilizing. They risk miscalculation and threaten the peace and stability of the Taiwan Strait."

For all its commitment to its own territorial integrity, Blinken argued China's unwavering alliance with Russia was hypocritical.

"Even while Russia was clearly mobilizing to invade Ukraine, President Xi and President Putin declared that the friendship between their countries was and I quote, without limits," he said.

Checking China's spending power

Blinken repeatedly stressed that the aim of the administration was not exclude China from the world market. Instead, senior administration officials say they want to make sure it "plays by the same rules as everyone else."

Blinken said that by creating dependencies, Beijing was "seeking to make China less dependent on the world and the world more dependent on China."

"For our part, we want trade and investment as long as they're fair, and don't jeopardize our national security," he added.

He warned other countries to go into trade partnerships with open eyes, wary of retaliation should they adopt a stance China disagrees with.

"Many of our partners already had a painful experience, how Beijing can come down hard when they make choices that it dislikes," he said.

A decisive decade for the world

The secretary predicted the ideological battle between superpowers would be decided in the next 10 years.

"President Biden believes this decade will be decisive," Blinken said, outlining the administration's three pronged approach. "The Biden administration strategy can be summed up in three words, invest, align, compete."

Invest, he said, referred to invigorating industry, technology and research to ensure the U.S. was up to par with China in these arenas. Align meant strengthening ties with key allies.

Blinken said efforts to do both these things were already underway through initiatives like the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and revived geopolitical partnerships. But to truly compete, he contended that more needed to be done -- calling on Congress to resolve a months' long stalemate and send a massive spending bill aimed at ramping up the country's ability to economically contend with China to the president's desk.

"Beijing is determined to lead, but given America's advantages, the competition is ours to lose -- not only in terms of developing new technologies, but also in shaping how they're used around the world, so that they're rooted in democratic values, not authoritarian ones," he implored.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Bipartisan senators meet on reviving stalled gun control talks

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(WASHINGTON) -- In an indication of possible movement on stalled gun control efforts in the wake of the Texas school shooting, a bipartisan group of nine senators – four Republicans and five Democrats – led by Connecticut Democrat Sen. Chris Murphy, met for about a half-hour Thursday to discuss what is possible in reforming gun safety laws.

"This is a good start," Murphy told reporters afterward, indicating that red flag laws and expanded background checks for commercial gun sales were "on our list" to consider during a weeklong recess.

The group is also looking at a GOP bill that was blocked Wednesday – the School Safety Act – that would codify current practice put in place during the Trump administration that created a clearinghouse of best practices for hardening schools against threats.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said the group had broken down assignments and would be meeting via Zoom over the recess.

"I thought the meeting was very constructive and went well. We identified some issues and we'll continue to work over the recess, and I am hopeful that we can come together on a package that will make a difference," Collins told ABC News.

In a significant development, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell encouraged the bipartisan negotiations.

ABC News Congressional Correspondent Rachel Scott confirmed he met with Texas GOP Sen. John Cornyn Thursday morning, giving his political blessing for Cornyn, a top ally, to meet with Democrats to see if there is a bipartisan path forward.

Democrats need the support of 10 Republicans to get advance any legislation toward a final vote and possible passage

Cornyn returned to Washington Thursday having seen the horror in his home state and, speaking on the Senate floor, said he is ready to work on finding ways to try to prevent another tragedy.

"I'm not interested in making a political statement. I'm not interested in the same old tired talking points," he said. "I'm actually interested in what we can do to make the terrible events that occurred in Uvalde less likely in the future."

South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham and Connecticut Democrat Sen. Richard Blumenthal emerged from the basement of the Capitol where the group met to tout their bipartisan bill that would incentivize states through federal grants to implement so-called red flag laws,

"The complicating and challenging part of this statute is to set the standard, for example, what kind of showing has to be made to justify separating someone from a gun?" Blumenthal said of the challenge in crafting these types of laws, on the books in 19 states, that permit law enforcement to temporarily seize weapons -- via court order -- from those individuals who might be a danger to themselves or others.

Those requests typically come from family members, but Maine has a "yellow flag" law that puts the onus on medical professionals to determine when an individual would be a danger that would warrants guns being temporarily taken.

Sen. Martin Heinrich, a New Mexico Democrat, said he attended the meeting because as a gun enthusiast, his Democratic colleagues "wanted to include that perspective as we try to figure out if there's some world of possible."

Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia said he and GOP Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, who also attended the meeting, would look at how they might update their background check bill, "looking at anything that's happened" between 2013, when the bill failed at the hands of most GOP senators, and now.

Murphy is slated to work with that bipartisan duo.

Toomey called today's meeting "an organizational meeting," as the bipartisan group seeks to find common ground. "We're getting started to try to figure out if there's a path to getting to a consensus, and we'll see where it takes us."

Sounding a positive note as he left the meeting, Toomey said, "There's a possibility it might work this time."

The group emphasized that they have set no dates for completion of their assignments, but Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer reiterated Thursday that the group had a finite period of time, roughly 10 days -- putting the time for a compromise to emerge at roughly just after the recess ends in a week.

"There is a powerful, emotional element to the red-flag statute that gives it momentum, especially after Uvalde -- like Buffalo -- where the shooter evidently indicated very strong signs that he was dangerous," Blumenthal said, adding, "I'm more hopeful than ever before."

Blumenthal indicated that the group is aware they have limited time to strike a deal.

"There is a real sense of urgency right now in this moment. We simply need to seize it," said Blumenthal, indicating that this "Sandy Hook moment" was a particular impetus.

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How Texas loosened gun restrictions despite recent mass shootings

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(NEW YORK) -- Gun control advocates are again calling on Texas lawmakers to restrict access to firearms after at least 19 children and two teachers were killed in a shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, on Tuesday.

The suspect, 18-year-old Salvador Ramos, a student at Uvalde High School, is also dead, authorities said. Officials told ABC News that the suspect legally purchased two AR-style rifles on May 17 and May 20, respectively, just days after his 18th birthday.

In Texas, where there are few restrictions on purchasing firearms, individuals who are 18 years or older are legally permitted to purchase long guns, which include shotguns and rifles.

Republican lawmakers, who currently control the State Legislature, have repeatedly loosened gun restrictions even after recent mass shootings in the state.

"You are doing nothing!" Texas Democratic gubernatorial candidate Beto O'Rourke said, confronting Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott during a press conference on Wednesday.

In the wake of the Uvalde shooting, Abbott pointed to a "mental health" problem in the community during Wednesday's press conference and dismissed the suggestion that stricter gun laws could have prevented the shooting.

"I asked the sheriff and others an open-ended question and got the same answer from the sheriff, as well as from the mayor of Uvalde," the governor told reporters. "The question was, 'what is the problem here?' And they were straightforward and emphatic. They said, 'we have a problem with mental health illness.'"

Abbott echoed a common stance that many Republican lawmakers on both the state and national levels have repeatedly taken amid a nationwide debate on gun violence, which reaches a boiling point following each mass shooting.

According to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, which advocates for gun control and studies gun laws across the country, seven of the deadliest mass shootings in the history of the U.S. happened in the country over the past decade. And four of those shootings, including the Uvalde shooting, happened in Texas.

Most recently, 25 people were killed in a mass shooting at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, on Nov. 5, 2017. And in August 2019, 23 people were killed at a Walmart in El Paso. The gunmen, like the Uvalde shooting suspect, used semi-automatic rifles in the shootings.

In the wake of these shootings, Abbott signed a series of bills into law last year designed to further ease access to firearms. He argued that each piece of legislation strengthens the Second Amendment, the right to bear arms.

"Politicians from the federal level to the local level have threatened to take guns from law-abiding citizens -- but we will not let that happen in Texas," Abbott said in a statement on June 17, 2021. "Texas will always be the leader in defending the Second Amendment, which is why we built a barrier around gun rights this session."

Among the bills signed by Abbot last year was House Bill 1927, dubbed as "Constitutional Carry" by gun rights advocates. The law made it legal for "law-abiding Texans" to carry handguns without a license or training. The law went into effect on Sept. 1, 2021.

"I'm not here to take anybody's rifles away. I'm not here to take anybody's guns away. But as this next legislative session unfolds in January here in Texas, I will seek to provide restrictions on access to these types of militarized weapons," Texas State Sen. Roland Gutierrez, who represents the district where the Uvalde school shooting took place in Texas, told ABC News Live on Wednesday.

"Again, nobody in this rural community uses that type of weaponry to go hunting," he added.

Amid criticism from gun control advocates, who argued for more restrictions in the wake of the El Paso shooting, Abbott defended the law, arguing that it "safeguards" the right to bear arms under the Second Amendment.

Abbott also signed into law in 2021 an amendment that loosened restrictions on handguns based on age.

In Texas, you had to be 21 years old to get a license to carry a handgun, but the 2021 amendment made it possible for 18-year-olds to receive a license if they meet other requirements, other than age, and if they are protected under various protective orders, including having been a victim of violence, stalking or sexual abuse.

"We have a governor and a Republican-controlled legislature that has chosen to put more guns on the streets, [and] make it easier for young people to access guns and weapons of war without training, without a license," Texas Rep. Veronica Escobar, a Democrat, told ABC News Live on Tuesday.

Escobar criticized the passage of the legislation loosening gun restrictions after it was signed by Abbott in June 2021 and said that in the wake of the El Paso shooting, Abbott has "chosen to betray the victims of gun violence."

Following the 2018 mass shooting at Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe, Texas, which left 10 dead, Abbott asked the State Legislature to consider a so-called "red flag" law that would allow court-ordered removal of firearms from an individual who is deemed to be dangerous.

But the Republican governor faced pushback from gun rights advocates in his own party, including Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.

"It seems like there's coalescence around the notion of not supporting what's categorized as a 'red flag' law," Abbott said in July 2018, according to the Texas Tribune. "What is important is ... that we work together as a legislative body towards a solution to make our schools safer and to make our communities safer."

After the Santa Fe shooting, Abbott announced a "school safety" plan and later signed into law bills that would, among other things, strengthen mental health access in schools, heighten police presence, hire more school safety marshals and remove the cap on how many can carry firearms in public schools.

Abbott also signed House Bill 2622 into law last year, making Texas a "Second Amendment Sanctuary State by protecting Texans from new federal gun control regulations."

A 1994 federal assault weapons ban expired in 2004 -- a measure that Democrats and gun control advocates have long fought to restore.

According to the Giffords Center, a study of mass shootings in which four or more people were killed found that more than 85% of these fatalities were caused by assault rifles. Seven states and the District of Columbia prohibit assault weapons. In Texas, assault weapons are legal.

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Will Texas school shooting force Congress to finally act on gun control?

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(WASHINGTON) -- Experts examine America's history with guns, the real-life impacts of gun violence and what can be done going forward to mitigate the problem.
As the nation mourns the latest American massacre of 19 elementary school students and two teachers in Texas, the deadliest mass school shooting in nearly a decade, gun control efforts remain stalled in Washington, as they have for almost 30 years.

President Joe Biden on Tuesday night made impassioned remarks expressing outrage at lawmakers who are blocking "common-sense" gun laws and rejected the argument often heard from Republicans that gun violence is a mental health issue.

"These kinds of mass shootings never happen with the kind of frequency they happen in America. Why? Why are we willing to live with this carnage?" Biden said with outrage. "Where in God's name is our backbone to have the courage to deal with and stand up to the lobbies?"

Since the National Rifle Association formed its own political action committee in 1977, the organization has used its deep pockets to lobby lawmakers at the federal and state level to stave off gun control efforts.

According to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, the NRA spent $1.6 million in the first half of 2019 alone lobbying members of Congress to vote against a proposal to expand background checks for gun sales.

With Republicans offering sympathy to the loved ones of victims in the Robb Elementary shooting, several critics on social media called out their contributions from the gun lobby, citing $13.6 million to Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, and $1.2 million to Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, over their careers.

The last meaningful gun reform legislation passed on Capitol Hill was the 1994 assault weapons ban, which expired in 2004 due to a "sunset" clause in the legislation. In the nearly 30 years since, gun control measures have mostly stalled on Capitol Hill, and in the current Democratic-controlled Congress, that's due, in large part, to the Senate filibuster rule.

In the current 50-50 Senate, Democrats need 10 Republicans to join them to reach the 60-vote threshold required by the Senate's filibuster rule in order to end debate on a bill, allowing it to proceed to a final vote. Republicans have warned even a single exception to the Senate's 60-vote threshold to advance legislation would be dangerous to the rights of whichever party is in the minority (although both parties have used the so-called "nuclear option" in the last decade -- requiring 51 votes to confirm all executive branch and judicial nominees, for example).

Republicans Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn headed back to their home state of Texas on Wednesday to visit Uvalde.

Cornyn has supported bipartisan talks to expand background checks in the past. Cruz has not, and has faced backlash, along with Abbott, for being slated to speak at the NRA's annual meeting in Houston this weekend, only a few hundred miles away from the massacre in Uvalde. Because former President Donald Trump is also attending, the NRA said Wednesday that firearms would not be allowed at the event, citing Secret Service protocol.

The last time Congress came close to passing substantial gun reform was in the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre in 2012, when a single gunman killed 20 students and 6 adults. Biden was tasked with the White House response on Capitol Hill while serving as vice president, but that effort ultimately failed to garner enough bipartisan support.

In lieu of congressional action, Biden has taken some executive actions aimed at curbing gun violence but conceded last week while in Buffalo there's "not much" more he can do without congressional support.

Where does gun control stand in Congress?

House Democrats passed two gun control bills last year -- one aimed at expanding background check requirements for gun sales, and the second aimed at extending the review period for background checks from three days to 10 days. But Democrats don't have the votes needed to squash a GOP-led filibuster to pass either bill in the Senate.

Two Senate Democrats -- Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona -- have been adamant in their opposition to changing the Senate filibuster rule.

"If we can't get 60 or 70 or more votes, we'll talk then," Manchin said Wednesday, expressing some confidence that senators could find some common ground before ending the rule.

Sinema, asked directly if she could support scrapping the filibuster to pass gun control legislation, told ABC News' Trish Turner, "I don't think that D.C. solutions are realistic here."

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer moved Tuesday evening to put the two House-passed bills on the chamber's calendar, but it's unclear if and when a vote would be held. If Schumer does bring legislation to the floor, it would likely be an effort to put every single senator on the record, as he's done with failed legislation on abortion and voting rights.

When eviscerating Republicans in a floor speech Wednesday, Schumer signaled he was disinclined to put up that vote.

"I accept the fact that most of my Republicans are not willing to do what it takes to present this needless loss of life. The NRA will have a hold on them. That's just the reality, unfortunately, but it is unacceptable to the American people to think that there are not 10 of my Republican colleagues just 10 -- one out of five over here -- would be ready to work to pass something that we reduce this plague of gun violence," Schumer said. "It's unacceptable, that there are not 10 members of the Republican caucus willing to save lives, find a way to do it. And yet, that's where we are."

Chris Murphy, D-Conn., who has represented his state since the Sandy Hook massacre also questioned his colleagues on the Senate floor Monday night in a speech that quickly went viral on social media.

"What are we doing? Just days after a shooter walked into a grocery store to gun down African American patrons. We have another Sandy Hook on our hands," he said. "There are more mass shootings than days in the year. Our kids are living in fear every single time they set foot in the classroom because they think they're going to be next. What are we doing?"

Renewed talks but will there be action?

While lawmakers on both sides of the aisle often talk about taking action in the wake of deadly mass shootings, there's not widespread bipartisan agreement on what action to take.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., pushed for The School Safety Act, which would create a federal clearinghouse database and collect information to establish best practices for school safety nationwide. Rubio will try to force a vote on that legislation Wednesday.Republican Sen. Rob Portman, who has accepted more than $3 million from the NRA in his career, told ABC News Congressional Correspondent Rachel Scott that he does support background checks.

"It's not just about these horrific mass shootings, it's also about this broader issue of gun violence, and then what are the actual solutions -- what's actually going to make a difference," he said. "If we're passing something to make us feel better here, that doesn't have any impact on the actual issue."

Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal said he thinks there could be common ground on red flag laws, noting his bipartisan red flag law bill with Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham. Red-flag laws allow police or family members to petition a court to order the removal of firearms from a person who may present a danger to others or themselves.

But Graham, asked by Scott on Wednesday if he can assure the American people that -- this time -- something will get done, said, "I can't assure the American people there's any law we can pass that would have stopped this shooting."

With an apparent eye on midterms, Sen. Cory Booker, D-S.C., said he's urging Schumer to put every senator on the record.

"I'm hoping it comes to the floor for a vote. It will fail. Americans should know that,' Booker said. "Right now, there are not seemingly 10 senators that want to do the most moderate of things, which is universal background checks supported by almost 90% of Americans, the majority of gun owners, but I do think at this moment its important we put people on the record."

Americans across party and demographic lines overwhelmingly support expanded background checks (89%) and red flag laws (86%), according to an ABC News-Washington Post poll from 2019.

ABC News Congressional Correspondent Rachel Scott, Trish Turner and Allie Pecorin contributed to this report.

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Baby formula execs face Congress as second shipment arrives from overseas

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(WASHINGTON) -- A plane carrying some 1 million bottles' worth of specialized infant formula from Europe arrived at an airport outside of Washington on Wednesday, the same day top industry executives and federal regulators faced angry lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

In testimony before a House panel, Dr. Bob Califf, head of the Food and Drug Administration, acknowledged his agency acted "too slow" to ward off the shortage.

"Let me say you're right to be concerned and the public should be concerned," Califf told lawmakers. "As I've said already, it was too slow and there were decisions that were suboptimal along the way."

The second shipment from overseas -- greeted by first lady Jill Biden and part of President Joe Biden's "Operation Fly Formula" -- included 100,000 pounds of formula specialized for infants allergic to cow's milk.

It will head mostly to hospitals and offered to families through prescription only. Another 2 million cans of formula made with whole milk from the British manufacturer Kendal Nutricare should arrive on store shelves in the beginning of June, administration officials announced late Tuesday.

The urgently needed shipment comes amid a nationwide shortage that's sent at least a half a dozen children to the hospital so far and has put enormous pressure on Biden to explain why his administration didn't act sooner to prevent the crisis.

The nation's supply crunch became urgent this year following the closure of a manufacturing facility by Abbott Nutrition in Sturgis, Michigan. Four infants had fallen ill after drinking powdered formula from the plant, and two died. Federal inspectors found a deadly bacteria inside the plant, and Abbott agreed to shutter the facility and recall the formula, even as it insisted there was no conclusive evidence that its formula caused the illnesses.

The closure of the plant was a substantial blow to the market. Abbott is the largest formula producer in the U.S. and a top contributor to a federal program that supplies formula to low-income families. The Sturgis plant was particularly crucial too because it produced a highly specialized formula made for infants with metabolic disorders.

The crisis also raised questions about why inspectors from the Food and Drug Administration didn't act sooner to address concerns, including those raised by a whistleblower complaint submitted to the agency last October.

"It shouldn't take the direct intervention of FDA and the president to keep infant formula on the shelves. The manufacturers have to take responsibility," said Rep. Frank Pallone of New Jersey, Democratic chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

The FDA has said Abbott didn't have a contingency plan when the plant closed. It also pushed back on the company's account of events, insisting there was ample evidence of the deadly bacteria inside the plant and "insanitary conditions" that may have contributed to the babies' illnesses.

"We lost confidence that Abbott Nutrition had the appropriate safety and quality culture and commitment to fix these problems quickly," the FDA wrote in prepared testimony.

The agency also noted that FDA leaders didn't immediately receive a whistleblower complaint last fall "due to an isolated failure in FDA's mailroom, likely due to COVID-19 staffing issues."

Chris Calamari, Abbott's senior vice president for U.S. Nutrition, told lawmakers that the company plans to reopen the facility during the first week of June and will have more formula available at the end of June than it did before the recall. He reiterated the company's stance that "there is no conclusive evidence to link our formulas to these infant illnesses," even as the FDA insisted it can be difficult to detect low contamination levels.

"To all of the families who depend on us for a reliable supply of formula -- we let you down. We are deeply, deeply sorry and are committed to making sure that a shortage like this never happens again," Calamari said.

"I have to tell you Mr. Calamari, I'm actually livid at what happened at Abbott's Sturgis plants," Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Illinois, said. "Quite frankly, it's pretty disgusting what we heard, about the water on the floor, water leaking from the ceiling and conditions that could lead to contamination. So, I'm not surprised that it's gonna take you a while to get your act together and clean the place, clean the place up.

To address the crisis, Biden has ordered the FDA to open up the U.S. market to global suppliers and arranged for two shipments of Nestlé hypoallergenic formula to arrive from overseas. He also has invoked the Defense Production Act to ensure domestic manufacturers are first in line to access raw materials and other supplies.

The first shipment of imported formula arrived in Indiana on Sunday aboard an Air Force transport plane, and included a half a million bottles of Alfamino Infant and Alfamino Junior -- enough hypoallergenic formula for 9,000 infants and 18,000 toddlers for one week.

In total, the two shipments would stock provide 1.5 million 8-ounce bottles of the specialty formula.

As of late Tuesday, five out of the six infants admitted to hospitals in South Carolina and Tennessee in connection to the formula shortage had been released.

One infant who remained hospitalized in South Carolina has not been able to tolerate alternative formulas. This child also has other health complications, a hospital spokesperson tells ABC News.

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Biden orders federal policing reform on 2nd anniversary of George Floyd's killing

Sarah Silbiger/Bloomberg via Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) -- On the second anniversary of George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police, President Joe Biden on Wednesday signed an executive order on policing reforms for federal law enforcement.

He had made a campaign promise to enact broader reform -- but Democrats in Congress failed to overcome Republican opposition to a measure that would hold local police accountable -- by making federal funding contingent on departments following congressionally-imposed requirements. The order signed Wednesday will apply to roughly 100,000 federal officers total, administration officials said.

Speaking in the East Room surrounded by Floyd’s family members, relatives of Breonna Taylor and civil rights leaders, Biden celebrated the order as a "measure of what we can do together to heal the very soul of this nation to address profound fear and trauma exhaustion."

But first, he and Vice President Kamala Harris briefly addressed the shooting that took place Tuesday at a Texas elementary school that left 19 young children and two teachers dead.

"Enough is enough," Harris said. "We must work together to create an America where everyone feels safe in their community, where children feel safe in their schools."

Biden, who confirmed he will be traveling to Texas with first lady Jill Biden in the coming days, called for gun control reform.

"We’re here today for the same purpose," Biden said, "to come together and say enough, to act, we must."

The executive order signed by Biden will create a new national database that contains records of federal officer misconduct, including convictions, terminations, de-certifications, civil judgments, resignations and retirements while under investigation for serious misconduct.

It also requires all federal law enforcement agencies to revise use-of-force policies, banning chokeholds and restricting the use of no-knock warrants -- two tactics that were widely criticized following the deaths of Floyd and Taylor.

Floyd died after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for more than nine minutes. Taylor, a Black medical worker, was shot and killed by Louisville, Kentucky, police using a no-knock warrant in March 2020.

Vice President Harris said Wednesday it was an honor to be joined by the families, stating she’s been moved by their courage.

"Your loved ones should be with us today," she added. "You should not have to mourn, should never have had to mourn in order for our nation to feel your pain and to understand what is wrong and to agree that something must be done."

Harris also criticized Senate Republicans for not supporting the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, a package of reforms passed by the House last year, stating the GOP members, "walked away from their moral obligation to address what caused millions of Americans to march in the streets."

On Wednesday, Biden once again called on lawmakers to pass the George Floyd Justice and Policing Act, stating he held off on signing the executive order because he was afraid it would undercut the effort on Capitol Hill to pass reforms. "Today we%u2019re acting," Biden said. "We%u2019re showing that speaking out matters, feeling engaged matters, that the work of our time -- healing the soul of this nation -- is ongoing and unfinished and requires all of us never to give up." Biden invited Floyd's daughter, Gianna, to come and sit at the desk where he signed the order.

"A few years ago ... she pulled me aside and she said, 'My daddy is gonna change the world,'" Biden said at the ceremony.

ABC News' Armando Garcia contributed to this report.

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Three key takeaways from Tuesday's primary elections

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(WASHINGTON) -- Historic early turnout meant knockout political races in Georgia, Arkansas, Alabama and Texas primary and runoff elections. With the backdrop of another massacre in which at least 19 schoolchildren and two adults were gunned down in a Texas elementary school, voters took to the polls to sign off on the candidates they believe best meet this political moment.

Here are some key takeaways from Tuesday's pivotal races:

Some "big lie" candidates run out of steam

There's never been a bigger test of voters' metabolism for "big lie" candidates than Georgia's GOP primaries.

Gov. Brian Kemp made a vicious split from the former president after he refused to help him overturn 2020 election results in the state that favored President Joe Biden. David Perdue, former senator and Donald Trump endorsee, took up Trump's feud, pillaring the sitting governor for his "lack of action" on so-called election fraud. The attacks were endless but clearly did not resonate with voters, who pushed Kemp to primary victory.

In at least three key counties in Georgia where Trump won in both 2016 and 2022 -- Baker, Dooly, and Quitman -- Kemp won by landslide margins, a testament to how little Trump's endorsement can mean when the rubber meets the road.

He'll square up once again with Democrat Stacey Abrams, one of the most vocal voting rights proponents, who will no doubt be quick to link Kemp and Trump's record, regardless of the inter-GOP love lost. It's important to note, though, that even though Kemp does not carry the "big lie" in Perdue-ian ways, he still signed a restrictive voting law and referenced the 2020 election as a reason for doing so during a debate.

Still, the Georgia Democratic Party quickly painted Kemp as the "most vulnerable incumbent governor in history" after his race was called.

"As Donald Trump's favorite punching bag, Kemp is stuck with a deeply divided party, and Georgians won't forget his dangerous record of making it easier for criminals to carry guns, passing extreme abortion restrictions, and refusing to expand health care for working families," Executive Director Noam Lee said in a statement.

Looking down the ballot, voters had less appetite for "big lie" firebrand Rep. Jody Hice, serving incumbent Brad Raffensperger a win. Raffensperger was a key character in Trump's attempt to overturn the election, and his patent refusal to "find" approximately 11,780 extra votes in Georgia launched him to national acclaim. Hice not only pushed Trump's disproven election conspiracy, he's also gone so far as to suggest he'd "decertify" the 2020 election -- something patently impossible to do.

Another winning Trump candidate raising questions about election integrity is football star Herschel Walker, who faces a challenge from Democrat Rep. Raphael Warnock in November. Without saying the election was outright stolen, Walker has hedged, telling reporters that "everyone knows that something happened in the election."

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, one of the most conservative members in the House and one of the 147 Republicans who voted to overturn the general election results, also won her district's primary elections.

Now, it's up to voters in Georgia's general election to see just how large the "big lie" will loom come November.

Political dynasties live and die

As one political dynasty dies, another emerges. The Bush family's political reach may have seen its end Tuesday, with the loss of George P. Bush, the fourth-generation Bush family elected official and eldest son of former presidential candidate Jeb Bush, in his runoff bid for attorney general. Bush, the current Texas land commissioner, tried and failed to snag Trump's endorsement, which went to the winner, incumbent Attorney General Ken Paxton. Regardless of his family's deep ties to Texas politics, Bush was unable to prevail.

But another dynasty lives on in Arkansas, with former White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders decidedly winning her primary bid for governor. Her victory underscores a dual legacy. Not only is her father Mike Huckabee, the former governor of the state, he's also had a prominent political career and ran for president in both 2008 and 2016. Her association with Trump means another win on his midterm scorecard (for those keeping track).

Gun violence candidate advances amid horror

Atlanta area Rep. Lucy McBath, who was forced to abandon her home district and run in the neighboring congressional district, decidedly won her race against Carolyn Bordeaux. McBath's race was only one of five incumbent-on-incumbent battles this midterm cycle, making it a must-see for those following the impacts of gerrymandering.

McBath has long championed gun reform, garnering serious monetary support from outside groups on that issue. Michael Bloomberg's Everytown for Gun Safety threw $1 million at her campaign by way of a TV advertisement in the closing weeks of the primary.

Her win came just hours after a gruesome and deadly shooting in Texas killed at least 19 children and two adults who were gunned down at an elementary school and amid a month filled with gunfire. Just last week, a white man killed 10 Black people in a racially motivated slaughter in a Buffalo supermarket.

Addressing supporters Tuesday night, McBath decried the shooting in Texas and spoke plainly on the gut-wrenching impact on families. McBath lost her teenage son to gun violence in 2012.

"We paid for unfettered gun access with phone calls to mothers and fathers who gasped for air when their desperation would not let them breathe. Who have sunk to their knees when their agony would not let them stand," she said.

McBath then spoke about her son Jordan, adding, "And across the country, from Uvalde to Sandy Hook, to Charleston to Buffalo, the violence that took my son is being replayed with casual callousness and despicable frequency."

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Primary election updates: Brad Raffensperger wins primary as Trump's picks fall in Georgia

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(WASHINGTON) -- May ends with another round of notable primary elections on Tuesday, this time in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia and Texas.

The most-watched races will be in Georgia, with primaries for governor and the Senate.

Here is how the news is developing. All times Eastern:

May 25, 12:21 am
Raffensperger projected winner of GOP nomination for Georgia secretary of state

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger will win the Republican nomination, ABC News has projected.

Raffensperger has been running for reelection under the cloud of former President Donald Trump, who has spent much of the 2022 midterm election cycle advocating for the takedown of Georgia’s top officials after they rebuffed his requests to change the 2020 election results.

Trump endorsed Rep. Jody Hice in the secretary of state's race. The congressman has amplified Trump’s false claims about election fraud and irregularities -- a message that didn't appear to resonate with voters on Tuesday. ABC News has projected that Gov. Brian Kemp -- another target of the ex-president -- will win the Republican nomination over Trump-backed David Perdue.

May 25, 12:00 am
ABC News projects Katie Britt, Mo Brooks will advance to runoff

In the Alabama Senate Republican primary, ABC News projects that Katie Britt and Rep. Mo Brooks will advance to a runoff.

They are competing to fill the seat left open by retiring Sen. Richard Shelby. The contest will take place on June 21.

Brooks flailed in the race after once securing the endorsement of former President Donald Trump. Trump rescinded his support earlier this year after Brooks, a champion of Trump’s lies about the 2020 election, suggested it was time to move on from the presidential race. But Club for Growth, a popular conservative anti-tax group, is still backing him and has spent more than $4.4 million on his behalf.

Britt, a former Shelby aide, has secured the endorsement of the outgoing senator as well as Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa and Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

May 24, 11:35 pm
McBath speaks about gun violence in victory speech: 'We are exhausted'

Addressing supporters at an election watch party on Tuesday night, Rep. Lucy McBath, the projected winner in Georgia's 7th Congressional District, used the moment to discuss gun violence after a mass shooting at an elementary school left at least 19 children and two adults dead in Uvalde, Texas.

"Tonight I came to give one speech but I am now forced to make another," McBath said after briefly thanking voters and volunteers, "because just hours ago, we paid for the weapons of war on our streets again with the blood of little children sitting in our schools."

McBath rose to national prominence in 2018, becoming a leading advocate for gun control after her son, Jordan, was shot and killed at a gas station in Florida. She described on Tuesday night the "all-consuming fear" that parents feel about their children’s safety.

"The violence that took my soon has been replayed with casual callousness and despicable frequency," McBath said, citing the recent shooting at a grocery store in Buffalo, New York, that left 10 people dead, as well as past tragedies in Newton, Connecticut, and Charleston, South Carolina.

"We cannot be the only nation where one party sits on their hands as children are forced to cover their faces in fear," McBath said. "We are exhausted, all of us, the American majority."

May 24, 10:24 pm
ABC News projects Lucy McBath will win Democratic primary in Georgia

Rep. Lucy McBath will win the Democratic nomination in Georgia’s 7th Congressional District, ABC News has projected, besting Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux after redistricting pitted the two incumbents against each other.

McBath flipped Georgia’s 6th Congressional District from red to blue in 2018. She is now the presumptive front-runner to win the November general election in the solidly Democratic district, which includes the Atlanta suburbs.

Her primary win comes on the same day as a mass shooting at an elementary school in Texas. McBath has been advocating for gun control following the death of her son, Jordan Davis, from gun violence back in 2012. He was shot and killed at a gas station in Florida by a man who complained that his and his friend's music was too loud.

In a statement, McBath said Tuesday that we as a country our better than this and that it is "imperative we act, and act now."

May 24, 10:22 pm
Trump congratulates Walker for Georgia Senate Republican primary win

Former President Donald Trump called into Herschel Walker's victory party on Tuesday night, congratulating the Republican nominee in brief remarks.

"And, you know, you were the greatest football player, and you'll be an even greater politician and Senator," Trump said. "I knew it right from the beginning when first I spoke to you and I said, this man is gonna do things that are incredible."

Walker then thanked his campaign and supporters and made a vague jab at his opponents.

"If you live in the state of Georgia, you're my family. And these radicals will have to come after me before they get to you. And I won't let that happen," Walker said.

May 24, 9:34 pm
Sarah Huckabee Sanders projected to win Arkansas' Republican primary for governor

ABC News projects that Sarah Huckabee Sanders will win the Republican nomination for governor in Arkansas, beating out her sole competitor, Little Rock radio host Francis "Doc" Washburn.

Sanders, the 39-year-old daughter of former Gov. Mike Huckabee, with her victory upholds a political dynasty in Arkansas. Heading into Election Day, she secured endorsements from former President Donald Trump, former Vice President Mike Pence and Sen. Tom Cotton, among others.

Trump made his last push for Sanders today, sending wide a statement called his endorsee a “warrior” who would do what is right, not what is "political correct."

May 24, 9:20 pm
Ken Paxton projected winner of Texas attorney general runoff

ABC News projects that in the Texas Republican primary runoff, incumbent Attorney General Ken Paxton will win. As of 9 p.m. Eastern, with 29% of the expected vote in, Paxton leads with 66% of the vote, while George P. Bush follows with 34% of the vote.

This race was both a test of Trump’s endorsement and the power of political dynasties, in this case: the Bushes.

Paxton received former President Donald Trump’s endorsement in July 2021 but went into the runoff engulfed in scandals that include indictment for securities fraud, FBI investigations into malfeasance and marital infidelity, among others. He denies all allegations.

His opponent was Bush, who is George H. W. Bush’s grandson and son of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. He is the only member of his famous family still in public office, currently serving as commissioner of the Texas General Land Office.

May 24, 9:04 pm
Marjorie Taylor Greene projected GOP winner in Georgia's 14th district

ABC News projects that Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene is the winner of the Republican primary in Georgia's 14th Congressional District.

Greene edged out five Republican competitors and overcame a legal challenge to her reelection despite her turbulent tenure in Congress.

As ABC’s Hannah Demissie reported, a group of Georgia voters said that Greene was not eligible to run for reelection due to her alleged involvement in the Jan. 6 attacks on the Capitol, citing the 14th Amendment. Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger agreed in early May with the court’s recommendation that Greene is allowed to stay on the ballot.

May 24, 9:03 pm


All polls are now closed


The final polls of the night have closed in Arkansas and Montana.

In Arkansas, voters are picking their party's nominees for governor and Senate. In Minnesota, there is a special election to choose a replacement for Rep. Jim Hagedorn, who died in February.

May 24, 8:31 pm
Brian Kemp projected winner of gubernatorial primary

ABC News has projected that sitting Gov. Brian Kemp will win the Republican nomination in Georgia, defeating former President Donald Trump's pick David Perdue.

Trump personally courted Perdue to challenge Kemp after the governor refused to indulge his baseless claims about the 2020 election. Despite the former president’s backing, Perdue consistently lagged in polling and fundraising against Kemp.

Kemp’s presumptive victory sets up a rematch between him and Democrat Stacey Abrams, who ABC News has projected to win the Democratic nomination for Senate. Their bitter 2018 race for the governorship was decided by less than 55,000 votes. Abrams admitted defeat but said she refused to call it a “concession,” citing tactics she said were used to suppress the vote.

May 24, 8:13 pm
Polls close in Alabama, most of Texas

Polls are now closed in Alabama and most of Texas.

In Texas, all eyes are on a runoff election between Democrat Rep. Henry Cuellar and immigration attorney Jessica Cisneros in the state’s 28th Congressional District. Cisneros is backed by the progressive wing of the party, while Cuellar has maintained support from the Democratic establishment despite his anti-abortion stance.

In Alabama, Sen. Richard Shelby’s retirement has resulted in a competitive Republican primary between Rep. Mo Brooks, attorney Katie Britt and former Army helicopter pilot Mike Durant. Brooks initially won former President Donald Trump’s endorsement in the race, but later lost it after suggesting it was time to move on from the 2020 election. Trump has not made another endorsement in the contest.

May 24, 7:19 pm
Stacey Abrams projected to win Democratic gubernatorial primary in Georgia

In the Georgia gubernatorial Democratic primary, ABC News projects Stacey Abrams will win.

Abrams's victory in the primary means November's general election could be a rematch between her and Gov. Brian Kemp. Kemp defeated Abrams in 2018 by a very narrow margin that she claimed was influenced by tactics that suppressed the vote.

Following her election loss, Abrams turned to advocacy and founded a voting rights group in Georgia. She’s credited as a main figure in helping Democrats flip the state from blue to red in the 2020 election cycle.

May 24, 7:07 pm
Polls close in Georgia

Polls have closed in Georgia, where voters are picking their party’s nominees in several highly-watched Senate, House and gubernatorial primary elections. Anyone already in line as of the 7 p.m. close will still be able to cast a ballot.

The Peach State has a fraught history of long lines and voting issues on Election Day, but Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger told reporters Tuesday afternoon that “everything so far has been smooth sailing.”

Candidates must receive more than 50% of the vote to win the nomination, or they will face a runoff race on June 21.

May 24, 6:54 pm
Georgia elections are biggest test yet for Trump’s “big lie”

Former President Donald Trump has gone all-in on Georgia, where he’s desperately trying to oust sitting Republican officials who pushed back on his baseless claims about the 2020 presidential election.

His picks include fellow election deniers David Perdue, a former senator running against Gov. Brian Kemp; Rep. Jody Hice, who is challenging Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger; celebrity football star Herschel Walker, who's seeking a Senate seat; and John Gordon, a businessman trying to unseat Attorney General Chris Carr.

May 24, 6:05 pm
Texas candidates respond to elementary school mass shooting

Democrats Jessica Cisneros and Henry Cuellar, who are competing in a runoff election for a South Texas congressional seat, issued statements after 14 students and one teacher were [killed in a shooting] () at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.

“This is a devastating tragedy,” Cisneros wrote on Twitter. “How many more mass shootings do children have to experience before we say enough? Sending my condolences to the children and families in Uvalde who are experiencing this unthinkable tragedy.”

Cuellar said he was “heartbroken” and urged the public to come together to support the community.

May 24, 5:05 pm
Stacey Abrams speaks after David Perdue's 'go back' attack

Stacey Abrams, a Black Democrat running for Georgia governor, declined on Tuesday to directly comment on Republican David Perdue saying she should "go back to where she came from."

"No, not at all," Abrams, said at a news conference in Atlanta, when asked by ABC News whether she wanted to respond to what was widely labeled as racist remarks from Perdue on Monday night while giving a campaign speech in which he also charged she was "demeaning her own race."

"I will say this," Abrams told ABC News at Tuesday's press conference. "I have listened to Republicans for the last six months attack me. But they've done nothing to attack the challenges facing Georgia. They've done nothing to articulate their plans for the future of Georgia. Their response to a comment on their record is to deflect and to pretend that they've done good for the people of Georgia."

Perdue, running to get the GOP nomination for Georgia governor, seized on Abram's comments last week that Georgia was "worst state in the country to live," citing residents' disparities in mental health and maternal mortality, among other issues.

"She ain't from here. Let her go back to where she came from," Perdue, a former senator challenging Gov. Brian Kemp for their party's nomination, said at a campaign event in the Atlanta suburbs on Monday night. "She doesn't like it here."

May 24, 5:03 pm
Early voting surges in Georgia as state navigates new election rules

A historic number of people have voted early in Georgia’s primary elections. According to the secretary of state’s office, approximately 857,401 people voted in-person or through an absentee ballot as of Friday -- roughly three times as many as at the same point in the 2018 midterm election cycle.

Republicans are touting increased voter turnout as proof a controversial election law signed last year wasn’t as restrictive as its opponents described, while Democrats say the numbers are indicative of public pushback to the legislation.

“I think it tells us that Georgia voters got the message and the message was, ‘We gotta go vote, and we've got to go vote early, and we've got to go vote in person,’” Bee Nguyen, the leading Democratic candidate for secretary of state, told ABC News’ MaryAlice Parks.

May 24, 4:25 pm
Here’s what time polls close in each state

Here’s what time polls close in each state on Tuesday. All times Eastern.

  • Georgia: 7 p.m.
  • Alabama: 8 p.m.
  • Texas: 8 p.m. in most of the state, 9 p.m. in the western tip
  • Arkansas: 8:30 p.m.
  • Minnesota: 9 p.m

May 24, 5:07 pm
What races Republicans, Democrats will be watching closely in Tuesday's primaries

Tuesday’s primary elections, stretching across four Southern states, will continue to test Republican voters’ appetite for former President Donald Trump and his push of the “big lie.”

Nowhere is that more apparent than in Georgia as Gov. Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger -- two Republicans who balked at Trump’s requests to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential race -- face challenges from enthusiastic proponents of Trump’s baseless election claims. Kemp is hoping to fight off former Sen. David Perdue, while Raffensperger is looking to rebuff Rep. Jody Hice.

Another high-profile contest in the Peach State will be the Senate primary, where football star Herschel Walker is running for the Republican nomination to likely challenge Democratic incumbent Raphael Warnock. Trump-endorsed Walker has been leading the pack despite several controversies, including prior accusations of domestic violence. (Walker has denied some of the allegations and said he doesn't remember others.)

For Democrats, the most-watched race of the night will be a runoff in Texas’ 28th Congressional District as 29-year-old immigration attorney Jessica Cisneros tries for a third time to unseat nine-term incumbent Rep. Henry Cuellar. The heated primary is the first clear test of how abortion rights may motivate voters this election cycle, given Cuellar’s position as the sole anti-abortion Democrat in the House.

And in Georgia, two Democratic incumbents -- Rep. Lucy McBath and Rep. Carolyn Bordeaux -- are running against each other because of redistricting.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Biden addresses nation on 'horrific' Texas school shooting

Joseph Sohm; Visions of America/Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) -- With the U.S. still reeling from the mass shooting at a Buffalo grocery store, not even two weeks ago, President Joe Biden addressed Americans in the terrible wake of Tuesday's shooting at a Texas elementary school that left at least 18 young children dead.

A clearly emotional Biden spoke to the nation from the White House Roosevelt Room about an hour after arriving back from a five-day trip to Asia and about two hours after ordering, from Air Force One, that the flag flying above the White House be lowered to half-staff.

"I’d hoped, when I became president, I would not have to do this again. Another massacre. Uvalde, Texas. An elementary school. Beautiful, second, third, fourth graders," he said.

"As a nation we have to ask when in God's name are we going to stand up to the gun lobby," he said raising his voice.

"I am sick and tired of it -- we have to act,' he said.

Two adults, including a teacher at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, were also killed by the 18-year-old suspect -- said to be a student at Uvalde High School -- who also died, according to Texas GOP Gov. Greg Abbott, whom Biden spoke with on his way back to Washington.

Less than two weeks ago, just before Biden traveled overseas he was in Buffalo, condemning a suspected white supremacist accused of killing 10 Black people going about their daily lives at a local supermarket.

There, he called on Congress to "keep weapons of war off our streets."

A short time before Biden was scheduled to speak, Vice President Kamala Harris, fighting back tears, commented on the shooting as she began her pre-scheduled remarks at a Washington gala.

"Tonight is a rough night, we planned for a great celebration, but I'm sure most of you have heard the tragic news about what happened in Texas," she said.

"Every time a tragedy like this happens, our hearts break. And our broken hearts are nothing compared to the broken hearts of those families -- and yet it keeps happening. So, I think we all know and have said many times with each other: Enough is enough. Enough is enough," she said.

"As a nation, we have to have the courage to take action and understand the nexus between what makes for reasonable and sensible public policy to ensure something like this never happens again," she said.

In February, on the fourth anniversary of the shooting at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where a single gunman killed 17 students and staff, Biden, again, pushed lawmakers to pass legislation requiring universal background checks and banning assault weapons, among other measures to reduce gun violence.

And last December, on the ninth anniversary of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, where a single gunman killed 20 first-graders and six teachers, Biden spoke to victims' families in a speech from the White House, demanding that lawmakers "owe them action."

"Because of your leadership, we forged a broad coalition and enacted more than 20 executive orders," Biden said. "We came close to legislation, but we came up short. It was so darn frustrating."

While serving as then-President Barack Obama's vice president, Biden was tasked in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting to lead the administration's effort to enact tougher gun control laws -- but in the nearly decade since the nation mourned for Newtown, no action on gun control has passed at a federal level.

Biden, like some of his predecessors, has repeatedly pushed for reforms to address gun violence but has faced a reluctance from Congress to engage on the issue.

Bills aimed at expanding and strengthening background checks have passed through the House's Democratic majority but have failed to garner enough Republican support to pass the Senate filibuster's 60-vote threshold.

As president, Biden has used some executive powers instead, like when he announced new regulations on so-called "ghost guns" last month.

But asked about what more he might do to address gun violence when leaving Buffalo last week, Biden conceded there was "not much" he could do through executive action.

"I've got to convince the Congress that we should go back to what I passed years ago," Biden said, referring to the 1994 passage of an assault weapons ban that expired in 2004.

Since Sandy Hook in 2012, the U.S. has endured more than 3,500 mass shootings, according to the Gun Violence Archive.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Kellyanne Conway says she 'never' lied to Trump about outcome of 2020 election

Lou Rocco/ABC via Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) -- Kellyanne Conway, former campaign manager to Donald Trump, sat down with “The View” co-hosts on Tuesday to discuss her new memoir, her husband’s attacks on then-President Trump and a moment with the former president that she says left her heartbroken.

When Trump won the 2016 presidential election, Conway, who served as Trump’s campaign manager and would become one of his longest-serving aides, became the first woman to successfully run a presidential campaign in America.

While she helped lead Trump to victory in 2016, Conway didn't take on his 2020 campaign. She left her White House role in August 2020 to spend more time with her family, she announced at the time.

When Trump lost the presidential election in November 2020, he began offering his theory, the so-called "big lie," of a stolen presidential election. It is a theory Conway does not subscribe to.

Conway, in her new memoir “Here’s the Deal,” writes that losing the presidential election in 2020 was more shocking to Trump than winning it in 2016. When asked if she agrees that Trump lost both the popular vote, the electoral vote and had a free and fair election with President Biden, Conway said, "It's pretty obvious that Joe Biden is the president. I can’t believe we’re still talking about this, respectfully."

Conway told "The View" that she "never" lied to former President Trump about the outcome of the 2020 presidential election. "I'm the closest person to Donald Trump to tell him the earliest that he came up short. It broke my heart, I wanted him to get reelected," she said.

"I only wish that the people who were in charge of his 2020 campaign, with the $1.4 billion that they wasted, had won outright and overwhelmingly," she continued. "He should have won huge, he had all these accomplishments."

On "The View," Conway said that "President Trump was told again and again by people in his campaign, 'You’re going to win in a landslide.'"

With rumors swirling that Trump is looking to run for president again, Conway told "The View" that Trump "would like to run in 2024" because he believes he has "unfinished business" and sees that "Biden is not doing a great job."

Alyssa Farah Griffin, who was the White House director of strategic communications and assistant to the president in the Trump administration in 2020, was a guest co-host on "The View" Tuesday. She resigned from her position on Dec. 4, 2020, and spoke out after the Jan. 6 Capitol attack.

The two former Trump staffers exchanged strong words at "The View" table.

Griffin asked, "How do you still defend [Trump]? Do you still think he could be a good president after he tried to overturn our democracy?"

"I left three months before you did for my children, I have four of them. And I said, 'Less drama more mama,' and that's exactly what I did," Conway responded. "I think you stayed a whole month after the election that you were having a problem with."

Griffin quickly retorted, "I wanted to help my junior staff get jobs. I stayed for three weeks after."

"I think people should know that," Conway said. "Because I haven’t seen you since you’ve changed."

"Just to be clear, I didn’t change," Griffin said.

"Alyssa, I don’t want to argue," Conway said. "You get to talk here every day, I’m here as a guest."

Alyssa told Conway and the audience, "I swore an oath to the Constitution, not to Donald Trump."

During Conway's time as a counselor to Trump, her husband, George Conway, who supported her taking the job, was an outspoken critic of the president on Twitter. In her tell-all memoir, Kellyanne Conway wrote about her husband of nearly 25 years, "My husband abandoned me for Twitter."

"Night after night, I would come home from a busy day at work," she wrote in her memoir. "While I was minding dishes, dogs, laundry, managing adolescent dramas and traumas, George would be just steps away from me, tucked away in his home office, plotting against my boss and me."

In the afterword of her memoir, Conway wrote, "Democracy will survive. America will survive. George and I might not survive."

On "The View," Conway made it clear that "George does not owe fealty or loyalty to Donald Trump or any political ideology. The vows were to me to love, honor and cherish. And I would not have been able to be Donald Trump's campaign manager to the level I was had George not said, ‘You are taking your shot and I will help more with the kids and around the house ... This guy can actually win with you. Go take your shot.’"

Co-host Joy Behar noted that Conway's husband "turned" on her. Conway said that "the public nature" of her husband's anti-Trump position was "so jarring" because of the values about George she appreciates, but he "became publicly bombastic."

"I felt I couldn't compete with the tweet, and why would I? Why would I compete with Twitter?" She's not even hot, she doesn't even have a personality," Conway said of her husband's many tweets bashing Trump. "I felt like there was another woman in our life."

"George turned on Trump, which would be OK, except it took on this whole folk hero syndrome with the mainstream media," she added.

George wasn't the only Conway who took to social media to criticize Trump. Conway's daughter Claudia, who had also become a critic of Trump, shared frequent posts about her mother and father on social media. Her mother spoke out about how her daughter was treated following her posts.

"Claudia was doing what a lot of teenagers do: pushing back on authority, mom and dad, posting TikToks and getting on Twitter," Conway said of her daughter. "What I don't appreciate and will never forgive or forget are a bunch of adults direct messaging my 15-year-old daughter without even trying to reach easy-to-reach parents."

"It is outrageous. You can’t have a 15-year-old in your audience without a parent. She can’t get her ears pierced, go to an R-rated movie, drive, vote," she continued.

"People just contacting my daughter. I would never contact your children. By the way, are we supposed to feel better if it were a 35-year-old man contacting Claudia at 1:00 a.m. and promising her fame, fortune, attention? But I’m so proud of her and her three siblings. They are resilient, they are hardy, they have more class, dignity, discretion and judgment in their pinkies than a lot of these adults."

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