But gun control legislation has gone nowhere in Washington, not even after the horrific shooting deaths of 20 first-graders and six educators in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012. The obstinacy on gun control has largely been among Republicans, though a handful of Democratic senators joined them in blocking legislation after the Newtown shooting.
The parties have also failed to make progress in overhauling the nation’s fractured immigration laws, despite broad public support. The most overwhelmingly popular immigration measure — granting legal protections to young people brought to the U.S. illegally as children — has gotten caught in the fray, with GOP leaders unwilling to pass it on its own so it can be used as leverage in broader talks.
The congressional gridlock has only been exacerbated by Trump’s reputation on Capitol Hill as an unreliable negotiating partner on major issues. On police reform, he spoke generally about supporting legislation but exerted little political capital when the process hit a roadblock.
“To do really hard things you always need a president leaning in and engaged,” said Brendan Buck, a top aide to former Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., during Trump’s first two years in office. “And on the really hard things he has not shown a willingness to get engaged.”
The police reform debate also suffered from the realities of the political calendar. With the Congressional Black Caucus, progressive activists and the civil rights community all calling the Republican bill too weak to be salvaged, some Democrats saw little incentive to give ground now when they might be able to get more if their party has sweeping successes in the November elections, now just over four months away.