WASHINGTON — The White House has decided to circumvent Capitol Hill as it concentrates its gun-control efforts on speeches and other public appearances by President Obama and Vice President Biden outside of Washington, according to officials with knowledge of the plans.
With Obama's gun agenda dependent on centrist Democratic senators nervous about their reelection prospects, the administration has calculated that the president is better off helping build a groundswell of popular support within their states rather than negotiating directly with the lawmakers, officials said..
The emerging strategy represents a more combative approach than the one taken during Obama's first term, when the White House frequently worked directly with congressional leaders in attempts to strike a compromise.This time, Obama has laid out the measures he wants Congress to pass and is now setting out to expend political capital selling them.
The approach also underscores the limits of Obama's influence on Capitol Hill, where he must rely on the votes of Democrats from states that backed Republican Mitt Romney and where many voters are hostile to his progressive second-term agenda.
"Write your congressman," Biden said during an online forum Thursday in a refrain likely to be sounded repeatedly in coming weeks. "For or against, write your congressman."
The White House is entrusting key legislative work to senior Senate Democrats while Obama and Biden begin to criss-cross the country showcasing the president's gun proposals, which include background checks for all gun buyers and an assault weapons ban.
Obama is mobilizing millions of volunteers and supporters through the newly-branded Organizing for Action, his former campaign committee that will raise money and run grassroots campaigns to pressure wavering lawmakers .
Part of the goal is to demonstrate support for gun-control measures in states such as West Virginia, North Dakota or Louisiana, where Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin III, Heidi Heitkamp and Mary Landrieu face strong pressure to side with pro-gun groups.