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political notebook

Obama invokes Newtown in pushing for new gun laws

WASHINGTON — Frustrated by deep political resistance to new gun laws, President Obama tried Thursday to regain momentum in his drive to pass legislation next month with an impassioned plea to remember the horror of the school massacre in Newtown, Conn., in December.

Standing in front of mothers of gun victims invited to the White House, Obama scolded lawmakers for not embracing the most sweeping of his ideas and objected to the notion that the country has moved on three months after 20 children and six adults were shot to death at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

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‘‘Less than 100 days ago that happened, and the entire country was shocked and the entire country pledged we would do something about it and this time would be different,’’ Obama said, his voice rising with indignation. ‘‘Shame on us if we’ve forgotten. I haven’t forgotten those kids. Shame on us if we’ve forgotten.’’

The president’s remarks came as his proposal to reinstate an assault weapon ban has faltered in the Senate and a proposal to expand criminal background checks appears in trouble as well.

A measure to increase penalties on straw purchasers has more support. Obama described the gun package as one of his top priorities when he unveiled it in January, but he has come under criticism from some allies for not doing more to pressure lawmakers into adopting it. The Senate is preparing to begin a floor debate on gun laws when lawmakers return the week of April 8.

The president seemed particularly irked at the suggestion that he had waited too long to push through his measures and had frittered away the political support for gun control after the Newtown shootings. A CBS News poll this week showed that support for tougher gun laws has fallen to 47 percent, down from 57 percent immediately after the massacre.

‘‘We need everybody to remember how we felt 100 days ago and make sure that what we said at that time wasn’t just a bunch of platitudes, that we meant it,’’ he said. To lawmakers, he said, ‘‘Don’t get squishy because time has passed and maybe it’s not on the news every single day.’’

Obama called on Americans to contact lawmakers, saying it will take a popular support to overcome resistance to new gun laws.

— New York Times

Obama signs order setting commission on voter access

President Obama signed an executive order Thursday establishing a bipartisan commission to examine problems of voter access after complaints of long lines at polling stations during last year’s election.

Obama promised during his State of the Union address last month that he would appoint such a panel, saying that ‘‘we are betraying our values’’ if voters end up sacrificing their franchise ‘‘because they can’t wait for five, six, seven hours just to cast their ballot.’’

The commission will be headed by the lawyers for last year’s presidential campaigns: Robert Bauer, who represented Obama, and Benjamin Ginsberg, who represented his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney.

Bauer has long been Obama’s legal adviser and served a stint as his White House counsel.

In addition to Romney, Ginsberg represented former President George W. Bush during both of his campaigns and the 2000 recount.

Obama’s order directed the new commission to submit a final report within six months of its first public meeting, but it was not clear when it would gather because seven other members are still to be appointed by the president.

The commission was charged with finding ways to shorten lines and ‘‘to promote the efficient administration’’ of elections.

— New York Times

US judge refuses to dismiss lawsuit against ex-senator

WASHINGTON — A federal judge is refusing to dismiss a Federal Election Commission lawsuit accusing former senator Larry Craig of misusing $217,000 in campaign funds for his legal defense after his arrest in a 2007 airport bathroom sex sting.

Craig contends that the airport bathroom trip fell under his official duties as senator because he was traveling between Idaho and Washington for work.

But US District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson said in a ruling Thursday that neither the charge nor the underlying conduct had anything to do with Craig’s official duties.

The Idaho Republican was arrested by an undercover police officer conducting a sting operation at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. After his arrest and guilty plea to disorderly conduct later became public, Craig tried unsuccessfully to reverse his conviction.

— Associated Press

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