D.C. Buzz: Murphy still searching for deal on guns

Greenwich Time

WASHINGTON — Despite a flurry of activity this week on guns, the sad truth is the negotiators (including Sen. Chris Murphy) are back to square one.

Murphy was in a meeting with Attorney General William Barr late Wednesday as Trump’s enforcer-in-chief shopped around an expanded-background-check idea — one that appeared to give at least some ground in the GOP’s otherwise solid wall of opposition to anything altering the current FBI NICS system.

Also in the meeting were Sens. Joe Manchin, R-W.Va., and Pat Toomey, R-Pa., the authors of the post Newtown background-check bill that stalled out in the Senate in 2013.

The NRA quickly branded the Barr idea a “nonstarter” and Barr himself said he was on Capitol Hill “just kicking around some ideas.”

So that’s where things are at, more than a month after the mass-shootings in El Paso and Dayton and three weeks since the murderous rampage in Midland and Odessa, Texas.

Murphy’s line is that nothing can go forward without the imprimatur of President Donald Trump. But Trump appears to be indecisive at best and holding a finger up to the wind at worst.

Trump this week blamed “dummy” Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke for blowing up gun-law negotiations by saying “hell, yes” he’d take AR-15s and AK-47s away from lawful gun owners.

By Thursday, Trump was telling reporters that negotiations with Senate Democrats were going along “very slowly.”

Murphy has taken the position that even though prospects for progress appear bleak, he’s not giving up total hope as long as there’s a flicker of light. He and other Democrats, kind of like a trusted friend urging someone to ditch a boyfriend or girlfriend, have told Trump no deal can be made if it has to get pre-approval from the NRA.

But as long as Trump needs pro-gun votes to beef up his 2020 re-election prospects, it seems unlikely a breakup is in the works anytime soon.

Himes holding onto his “Plan Bee”

With a whistleblower signaling big trouble in the White House and an inspector general gagged before the House intelligence committee, you’d think one of its members, Rep. Jim Himes, D-Conn., wouldn’t have time to putter around his Cos Cob home like some character in a British novel who collects medieval amulets or chases down butterflies.

But even though he has spent a record amount of time on the gush of question marks surrounding the whistleblower report, Himes also put the finishing touches on his annual production of honey — and mead!

In case you’re not schooled in Ye Olde English folklore or Norse mythology, mead is an alcoholic brew distilled from honey, yeast and alcohol. OK, so does that make Himes a moonshiner?

No, he insists. He checked it out with the Treasury Department’s Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. The answer he got back is producing personal amounts is OK, and won’t bring in the “revenuers.”

What about the state’s permitting process through the Department of Consumer Protection?

“You got me there,” he said with a laugh.

Well, don’t worry, Congressman. Looks like the department’s permit application only contemplates filings by those in the liquor manufacturing business. Himes says his quantities, in the two-to-three dozen range, are not going to be sold commercially.

Too bad in a way, because the bottles are nicely labeled with a quasi-brand name, Rhymester’s Share.

Beneath the words are a more-or-less equivalent in Old Norse. Himes had a lengthy explanation of Norse mythology and the god Odin and mead falling to earth, “making it available to mere mortals,” he said.

OK, well, that’s another body of knowledge Himes has parked in his brain, maybe next to the one having to do with the legal threshold of “urgent concern” and “credible” that triggers an intelligence Inspector General report to Congress.

In any case, you can see the makings of a solid business plan in Himes’ Twitter musings about his latest mead and honey production: “Because when you could lose your job every two years, it makes sense to have a Plan Bee.”